Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book Review: "Bristol House"

"Bristol House" by Beverly Swerling
First published in 2013
398 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5
(image source)

"Bristol House" -- a historical mystery playing out in modern-day London -- was, overall, a bit of a disappointment. It had lots of the things I like in novels, but it somehow lacked any sense of urgency or an edge-of-your-seat climax, and I didn't really identify with the protagonist. In fact, I found her to be annoying at times.

Annie Kendall is an architectural historian and recovering alcoholic who is struggling to regain her footing and her credibility in the academic world. When she receives an offer from the Shalom Foundation to spend three months in London researching the existence of a Jewish man who secretly resided there in the 1530s and purportedly distributed some ancient and very valuable Jewish treasures, she jumps at the chance.

But there's more to the story than she could ever imagine -- including the fact that the flat where's she staying is haunted by a Carthusian monk, also from the 1530s. And there are signs that the head of the Shalom Foundation has a much grander and more sinister scheme in mind for whatever Annie unearths than he let on.

Swerling attempts to combine history, religion, suspense, mystery and romance, but I just didn't feel it. "Bristol House" was like reading a really, really dull Dan Brown novel. I kept waiting for the moment when I couldn't stop turning the pages, dying to know what happens next, but it never came. And I didn't really care what happened to Annie. I felt the subplot of her alcoholism was totally unnecessary to the story and didn't do anything to make her more likeable.

"Bristol House," which is advertised as a ghost story plus historical mystery that must be solved to avoid imminent danger, was a bit of a snooze. It was hardly the worst book I've read this year, but I'm sure you can find something much more engrossing.

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