Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Disappointed….but willing to subject myself to more?

It’s always interesting to think about why you read a certain book, right? The quick backstory on this one is that I was at a Barnes and Noble that had a few tables of $1 books set up. In the ensuing frenzy, I pushed through the gathering crowd, picked up anything that looked halfway decent, and ended up buying a copy of The Mask of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig. The fact that this was a sequel meant that I had to trudge to the library to borrow the first book in the series, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Billed as a chick-lit historical mystery, it involves the narrator, an academic, tracking down the true identity of The Pink Carnation, an English spy operating in France during the Napoleanic Wars. I had hopes that this might be similar (albeit flufflier) to another book I love involving a hunt by two academics to solve a historical mystery, Possession by A.S. Byatt. But while Byatt builds tension by having her characters work hard to track down the answers they seek, Willig simply drops the key to the mystery into her narrator’s lap and relegates her to reading a historical diary for the bulk of the novel- not good considering that the historical side of the story dissolves into a stereotypical romance novel. The only grain of the story that held my interest was the potential relationship between the modern-day narrator and a descendent of the The Pink Carnation. It seems like this relationship will continue into the next book in the series. Will this be enough to make me read that one too? I hate to admit it, but probably yes. Hmm…maybe I’ve uncovered the publisher’s strategy to continue this series.

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