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27 May 2010

Book Review: The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips

Title: The Devlin Diary
Author: Christi Phillips
Publisher: Gallery
Publication Date: April 13, 2010
Paperback: 464 pages
ISBN: 978-1416527404
Genre: Historical Fiction


From the Publisher:

From the bestselling author of The Rossetti Letter comes a “thrilling” (Library Journal) novel of intrigue, passion, and royal secrets that shifts tantalizingly between Restoration-era London and present-day Cambridge, England.

London, 1672. A vicious killer stalks the court of Charles II, inscribing the victims’ bodies with mysterious markings.Are the murders the random acts of a madman?Or the violent effects of a deeply hidden conspiracy?

Cambridge, 2008. Teaching history at Trinity College is Claire Donovan’s dream come true—until one of her colleagues is found dead on the banks of the River Cam. The only key to the professor’s unsolved murder is the seventeenth-century diary kept by his last research subject, Hannah Devlin, physician to the king’s mistress. Through the arcane collections of Cambridge’s most eminent libraries, Claire and fellow historian Andrew Kent follow the clues Hannah left behind, uncovering secrets of London’s dark past and Cambridge’s murky present and discovering that the events of three hundred years ago still have consequences today. . . .

My Review:

Intellectually stimulating, enticing, and deeply intriguing, The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips will have the reader engrossed before the end of the first page.

Claire Donovan is fulfilling her dream; she is an official temporary lecturer at Trinity College with no small thanks to Dr. Andrew Kent. All things considered, her beginning is not an auspicious one, yet she is enjoying her time and has discovered a brilliant idea for a paper. The only problem is that in her enthusiasm, she shared her idea and within a week Dr. Kent claimed the idea was his. Soon the whole college is aware of their difficulties and before clearing her name he is unfortunately found dead.

Meanwhile in 1672, Lord Arlington, the King's most trusted minister, arrests Mrs. Hannah Devlin, a famous physik giving Hannah a choice, to be imprisoned in Newgate for practising physik without a license or go to Whitehall, no questions asked. She chooses Whitehall and discovers herself the private physician to the 22-year-old Louise de Keroualle, the King's mistress, maid of honor to his late sister and lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine. This young woman, the King's favourite mistress, recently birthed her first child and the King's 13th and she is unfortunately suffering from a venereal disease, the clap, much preferable to the pox and quite possibly treatable. Hannah notices Whitehall is fairly empty save Lord Arlington and Madam Severin, yet not all is as it appears.

Phillips' novel is a work of brilliance where she seamlessly weaves between the 17th and 21st centuries, and ultimately linking the two together in page turning plot developments and twists. Her main characters are strong, independent, and very likeable women separated by centuries. Phillips breathes life into each character from the most prominent in her novel to the most minor character; the reader will feel as though they are keenly aware of everyone in the story. The attention to detail and imagery draws the reader into London and Cambridge during the respective time periods. The Devlin Diary will immediately draw the reader in, rendering the reader unable or unwilling to put the novel down.

My one and only complaint is not against the novel nor the author, but myself. I wish I had read Christi Phillips' previous novel, The Rossetti Letter, a problem I shall remedy before her third novel is released. While The Devlin Diary is brilliant enough to stand on its own merits, I would like to have read her previous novel to see if it truly is as masterfully written as The Devlin Diary.

It is quite impossible for me to praise this novel enough without giving away any more details. Suffice it to say this is one novel I not only thoroughly enjoyed but one I shall read repeatedly over time. The Devlin Diary will, at the very least, take the reader on an unforgettable journey with exceptionally well-written characters and well-placed settings. Without reservation I recommend The Devlin Diary to all readers and discussion groups because it is indeed that brilliant.

About the Author:

Christi Phillips is the author of The Rossetti Letter, which has been translated into six foreign languages. Her research combines a few of her favorite things: old books, libraries, and travel. When she’s not rummaging around in an archive or exploring the historic heart of a European city, she lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is at work on her next novel, set in France. Visit her website for more information.

I received a complimentary copy of The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips from Simon & Schuster to review. Receiving a free copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.



Christina T said...

I enjoyed the Devlin Diary also but I have to admit that I preferred the historical characters to the modern ones. Claire's story just wasn't as interesting to me as Hannah's. I thought Hannah was a fantastic character. Christi Phillips's next book will be entirely historical fiction and I am looking forward to it.

Well written review as always :)

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Linking the centuries through the characters and plot sounds fascinating. I simply must explore these books.

Great review, Jennifer.

Jan von Harz said...

While I have been pretty dedicated to reading only YA fiction these days, The Devlin Diary sound too good to pass up. Absolutely loved your review.