Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mad, bad, and...

...Dangerous to Know. Lady Caroline Lamb's famous characterization of Lord Byron has been used a number of times for previous novels and movies like the classic potboiler depicted to the left, a recent novel by Barbara Taylor Bradford, quotes about various people, an album by Hillary Duff, a memorable song in an episode of Angelina Ballerina, biographies of Byron, and so on.... I really foresee Byron will be reborn as a detective soon if he hasn't been already. He did figure large in a recent Stephanie Barron- Jane Austin novel.

Anyway... that is the title of the latest Tasha Alexander Lady Emily mystery. I loved this series when it started. Alexander is doing something wonderful and fresh with this series in dealing with the mores and lives of Victorian woman intellectuals or those who crave the intellectual life. The first few:  Only to Deceive, A Poisoned Season were brilliant and wonderfully exciting in a lot of ways but I didn't much care for the last one,Tears of Pearl, as I detailed in a previous blog:
But I had high hopes for this one.

I did like it, mostly, but did think that it dragged. And once again was light on charm. Emily is again divorced from her English society milieu and friends like Ivy, even her judgmental mother. A bunch of stuff didn't make much sense and Emily does seem both whiny and self-righteous. Her husband Colin keeps saying she's brilliant, which is good, since that's the only way you'd know. That's before he cracks down and doesn't want her to do anything. And his mother, an imperious suffragette shows up and hates Emily. Nobody is very understanding of poor post-Pearl injured Emily and it seemed to take a long time to slog through it all.

One annoying things is the frequent use of the word "beyond" - as in "beyond terrifying," "beyond boring," and so on. It's set in France but little seems French or like France. I guess they all speak so fluently that there is no problem with going back and forth between languages without any acknowledgment. Monet shows up as character to move along the plot but he and his wife don't really come alive as characters not does their famous garden get much attention. Sebastian the thief (the apparant inspiration for Arsene Lupin) and Cecile are a bit amusing but their devotion to Emily seems unwarranted - even strained. The food sounds good (a pear wrapped in pastry sounds really divine) but the setting really lacks the feeling, flavor, and sense of being in France in the late nineteenth century or any other time.

Monet's house in Giverny that Emily visits

I was glad to finally finish it - it seemed take forever but I have to admit the unraveling of whodunit was clever and I never guessed who - at least partly 'cause I didn't care!

It's hard to keep a series fresh and Tasha Alexander is doing a good job of scouting out new locations and there are hints of gender politics and maybe domestic trials to come. I'm sure to read the next one.

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