Monday, June 29, 2009

Review: The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips (This is my 100th Review! YAY! Look for details of my MEGA GIVEAWAY coming soon!!)

No matter how wealthy a person might be, life in Charles II's Restoration London is still a struggle. Hannah Devlin is the daughter of two physicians and is a talented doctor herself. But she has lost so much. Her husband, her baby girl and her father, all dead in the last couple of years. And her mother has lost her mind and requires constant care. Hannah has begun to suffer debilitating headaches. Her self treatment is having limited success but she refuses to allow her own pain to interfere with her treatment of London's poor, suffering masses.

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.

12 comments:

Beth F said...

I can't wait to read this one. I "had" to read the first one (Rossetti Letter) before this. I posted my RL review today and will start DD next week.

Julie P. said...

Great review! Congrats on your 100th review -- what a milestone.

Literary Feline said...

Congratulations on reaching 100 reviews! Definitely an event worth celebrating. :-)

I am looking forward to reading this one. It sounds so good.

bermudaonion said...

Congratulations on 100 reviews - that is so awesome, Carey!! The book sounds great too.

Kaye said...

It does look good! 100 reviews, very very impressive, young lady!

Pam said...

Congrats! Is this book going to be part of your mega giveaway? It sounds like a great read so I'm definitely adding it to my ever-growing list of must-reads...

LuAnn said...

100! That's a great number to reach. Congrats.

ann marie said...

Congrats on hitting 100 and thanks for the great review. :)

carolsnotebook said...

Congrats on your 100th review and it sounds like a greaat book.

Mary K. from L.A. said...

Congratulations on your 100th review! I am so impressed.

I don't usually read mixed time period novels because they usually seem a bit contrived, but this one sounds intriguing. And, of course, it's the second in a series, so, again of course, I'm going to have to read the first one before reading this one.

*sigh* To paraphrase a saying I heard a long time ago, "I have so much left to read, I may never die!"

Becca said...

I like the idea of this taking place in two times periods, especially since both women seem so interesting. I would love to poke around in an uncatalogued library! I love the quote. How can you not like someone who thinks there is magic in a book? You want to read about people like that.

Zibilee said...

I didn't know this was a sequel to The Rossetti Letter, but it looks so enthralling that I may have picked it up on it's own anyway. I have read a few reviews of The Rossetti Letter, and now I think I will get the both of them. It sounds like I will be in for a couple of wonderful reads. Great review!

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About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.