Sunday, April 6

Elizabeth Peters: Devil May Care

When a woman goes to house sit for an elderly aunt she finds herself the victim of an apparent haunting. Is she really being visited by ghosts in the night or are persons unknown merely trying to convince her that she is? With the help of a neighbour she sets out to investigate and uncovers century old secrets, finding love on the way.
This book is a prime example of a good premise lost to poor execution. The only thing that kept me reading were the social curiosities of an era so very close to, but so very different from, our own. Written in the 1970’s it is full of signs of its time, such as a woman risking her reputation by staying in a house alone with an unrelated single male, a gay man being ostracised by an entire community with the exception of the local eccentric, and an overly laboured issue around sleeping arrangements - the couple are engaged but do they want one room or two?
The story itself failed for me on a number of points.
To begin, the first chapter is in the point of view of a character that doesn’t appear again until the end of the book and even then is a minor player.
The style is heavy on the telling rather than showing and what is shown is often secondary or even tertiary detail. Just when a scene is getting interesting rather than follow through, the author wraps it up quickly with a telling summary. This happens so often that at one point I thought I might be reading an abridged version. I wasn’t.
A lot of word space is given to the care and feeding of numerous animals that play no significant role in the story, to the detriment of more interesting and relevant plot points.
The heroine was unsympathetic. She’s judgemental beyond reason, even given the time and unexplainably engaged to a man the author goes to lengths to tell us has no redeeming features. It was difficult to relate to her at all, let alone like her.
Finally the romance between the two lead characters was completely unconvincing. At the end of the novel I am supposed to believe that they intend to marry. I have a hard time believing these two even like each other.
While I’ve read worse, the unintentionally entertaining historical curiosity of this novel wasn’t enough to save it. I will be actively avoiding this author’s other works.-Lynn

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