She is alarmed when she is practically kidnapped one night by Lord Arlington, the King's Secretary of State. The last thing she wants is to be brought to the attention of the powerful men who control the government and the board of Physicians. Female doctors are not allowed to practice the male dominated medical profession. Her unease grows when she is brought to the bedside of the King's most recent mistress, Louise de Keroualle, who is very ill. Hannah determines that the young woman is suffering from venereal disease and sets out to cure her, all the while trying to decipher the swirling power currents that exist within the court.
In modern day Cambridge, Claire Donovan has landed her dream job. She is to be an associate History lecturer at prestigious Cambridge University, a position that comes complete with snug quarters, meals and keys to the oldest and most interesting areas of the college. While exploring an uncatalogued collection in one of the libraries, she comes across a coded diary from 1672. It catches her interest and she shares her discovery with a fellow teacher over dinner. Turns out he is a slimy fellow teacher, he steals her idea and pursues it as his own. Claire is furious when she finds out, of course, and can't resist punching the jerk in the nose. Unfortunately his dead body turns up shortly thereafter, and he has a copied page of the coded diary in his pocket.
With the help of Andrew Kent, whom she originally met in Venice (their adventures are the subject of the author's first book, The Rossetti Letter), Claire tries to decode the diary. What information could possibly be contained within it that could inspire murder hundreds of years later?
This is a intriguing story that weaves sections of Hannah's diary in with Claire's modern experiences, with murder mysteries being solved in both time periods. The two women are both smart and confident in their professions but both have the weakness of being misled by a charming and unscrupulous man. If they could reach out and meet across the years, it feels like they would have been friends. I love the author's treatment of the value of the written word and the importance of its conservation. Here is my favorite passage from the book:
"Although she was a logical, practical person, she believed that in books there existed a kind of magic. Between the aging covers on these shelves, contained in tiny, abstract black marks on sheets of paper, were voices from the past. Voices that reached into the future, into Claire's own life and heart and mind, to tell her what they knew, what they'd learned, what they'd seen, what they'd felt. Wasn't that magic?"
Indeed it is magic! If you love historical fiction or historical mysteries, add The Devlin Diary to your reading list!
Many thanks to Sarah at Pocket Books for sending me the review copy. For more information on the author and her books, please visit her website. This review is part of a blog tour, for a complete list of the blogs participating, please click here.
The Devlin Diary is published by Pocket Books. ISBN 978-1-4165-2739-8.