Christi Phillips' previous novel, The Rossetti Letter, she's now at Cambridge upon Andrew's request but instead of enjoying her time in the history-filled campus, she's feeling out of place and abandoned. Awkwardly alone in such an unfamiliar, traditional English environment, it's not until she stumbles upon the diary of one Hannah Devlin that Claire once again finds herself in the midst of what she loves best: unraveling the mysteries of history. Because Claire will soon discover that Hannah is unlike most usual 17th century women. She's a talented physician (which is uncommon in itself) whose experiences in the royal court of Charles II could shed light on a series of brutal murders left unsolved for generations.
Told from the alternating perspective of Claire and Hannah, The Devlin Diary moves along at a fast clip, yet the more fascinating story by far resides with the woman doctor Hannah. Her experiences are documented with such feeling and detail that I could picture the contrasting filth and splendor of 17th century England. While Claire's lackluster account of her dealings within the backstabbing community of Cambridge failed to ever capture my interest. Which shouldn't come as a surprise as the focus of the novel itself leans very heavily upon Hannah's unfolding story and not so much on the historian Claire. Unsurprisingly, I found myself much more drawn to Hannah and her mystery than I ever did to Claire. I think I might have liked Claire more as a character if I had been able to spend more time with her, but as it was, I didn't. I have however heard many, many good things about The Rossetti Letter - which I know follows Claire much more closely - so I'm thinking my opinion could differ from those who have already had the opportunity to meet and like Claire.
The Devlin Diary immediately brings to mind a Da Vinci Code-like chase where instead of the clues being found in art, they are discovered in historical documents. Intriguing for any fan of historical fiction to say the least. Although it did seem like every time the story switched back to Claire I found myself constantly pulled out of the adventure due to her misguided attempts at crime-solving. I'm thinking if The Devlin Diary had simply been Hannah's story, without the unimaginative addition of Claire, I would have eaten it up with a spoon (which I did) and then passed it without hesitation to friends.
series reading order:
~ The Rossetti Letter
~ The Devlin Diary
Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Avid Reader review
Book Hounds review
Reviewing the Evidence review
S. Krishna's Books review
book source: provided by the publisher