Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oxford Knot: Review

Kate Ivory is an author of historical fiction who is used to receiving letters from her readers--usually telling her all the mistakes she's made. But then she receives a package with a gold knot-ring and no explanatory note. She has little time to think about it though, because she also receives a phone call from her publicist asking her to take part in a last minute bookshop tour to promote her latest novel. Never mind that the tour was really intended for another author--Kate should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to push her book. She won't be alone on her mad dash around England though--she'll be appearing in tandem with Devlin Hayle, author of a series of historical bodice-rippers and known as "The Man Who Understands a Woman's Heart." 

What Kate understands is that Hayle is a boozing, gambling womanizer who seems to have a collection of bookie's tough guys, irate husbands and brothers, and others hot on his trail. A whirlwind of mayhem follows them wherever they go. There are a couple of attacks on Hayle, but when murder finally strikes, it happens to someone much closer to Kate than her book tour companion. Was Hayle really the object of the arsonist and the would-be killer or is there another agenda? And does it have anything to do with her unknown admirer?

Once upon a time I read the first "Oxford" series book by Veronica Stallwood (Death and the Oxford Box) and apparently thought it was good enough to assign it three stars (that would be in the days before blogging, so I don't really remember it all that well). I also thought enough of it to pick up Oxford Knot in 2011. I have to say, I'm not quite sure what the great appeal was. Kate is a fairly likeable character, but certainly not the most memorable. Slogging through the first chapter where she's trying to work on her book and her friends and neighbors keep interrupting got old real quick--totally could have skipped that part and headed straight to the tea party and opening the box with the ring. So, the writing is not all that crisp and engaging.

There's also not a whole lot of crime-solving going on in this "mystery." The police make a brief appearance when the murder occurs and Kate spends more time trying to figure out how many of Hayle's stalkers are in the audience at each stop on the book tour, than she does trying to figure out who sent her the ring and then who killed the person close to her. The mystery really just solves itself. Speaking of that murder, Kate speaks for me when she says that it would have made a lot more sense if Hayle had been murdered. The death that occurs is so senseless. I realize that often happens in real life--but this isn't real life. This is fiction and the point should be to produce a murder that the reader cares about seeing solved and which makes a certain sense in the grand scheme of the book. Given who the victim is (I'm trying not to spoil things here), I definitely want the killer caught, but the wrap-up is so disappointing and murder so senseless that there is little joy in the denouement. ★★ and I doubt I'll be reading any more of the series.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

Imagine being a writer and getting mail all the time pointing out your imperfections... that'd would be terrible. I suppose it really happens too.
Not sure this would be for me, though I feel I am saying that a lot lately. Maybe it's just me.
Great review!