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Customer Review

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not good enough, 1 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Cross My Palm (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The jacket of this book sounded promising - a Victorian mystery with a female central character who tells fortunes for a living.

Unfortunately, it fails to live up to its billing. For one thing, it cannot decide whether it is an insight into the Gypsy lifestyle in Victorian England, a dark and gothic murder mystery or a full scale chick-lit romance. Consequently, it fails to be any of the three.

If I had to summarise it, I would say it was a good idea written in haste and with little or no research or depth.

The Gypsy heroine is Rosie Lee. First mistake. You either think of the famous Gypsy Rose Lee or else Cockney rhyming slang for tea! Either way, the choice shows a lack of thought and care.

The second mistake is that the said Ms Lee is an uneducated gypsy who runs away from her people at the age of 12 and grows up under the protection of another girl of dubious reputation. Yet she displays perfect grammar and diction and, apart from the odd Romany dialect word, sounds the same as the titled lady for whom she is hired to tell fortunes.

Thirdly, two perfectly normal, sound, women seem to completely lose their senses when confronted with Valentin, a mysterious Romany who makes buttons for a living. Yet Valentin does little and says less. If he flashed his teeth one more time I would have thrown the book out of the window! I don't know about you, but a bloke would have to have a lot more about him than showy tombstones to make me cross the road, never mind chuck in a life of wealth and privilege!

Fourthly, the author uses a first person narrator throughout. This can be a useful conceit, as we experience the same misconceptions and prejudices as the narrator. However, it obviously didn't work here as the narrator changes from Rosie to Tabitha to the Police. Again, this is clumsy and pointless as often passages, including the denouement, are repeated from more than one viewpoint.

Speaking of repetition, the fifth error is that character descriptions are repeated over and over. Tabitha has eyes like wet stones; Emily is a `mouse' with hands like claws. This makes the book a little like a very long, ancient, narrative poem, the sort that had repetitions built in to make them easy to memorise by those who hadn't learned to read and write. The kindly among you may say this is intentional but, personally, I doubt it. The effect becomes really annoying after a while and, with so few characters and less physical description, is entirely unnecessary. I suspect it is more a method of getting what is already quite a short book up to a publishable length.

In summary, this book made me cross. In the right hands, it could have been pacey, atmospheric and intriguing. In fact, there were supposed to be `hooks' and cliffhangers in the story, but these are flagged up so blatantly they fail to surprise. Characters motivations are unclear and inconvenient truths are simply done away with (for example, we are supposed to believe the police don't interview one key person regarding the abduction simply so as not to upset her)!

This book is a very quick read and the chapters are short - ideal for holidays, since you won't lose the thread of the plot during breaks for swimming and cocktails. I hope the author continues with her writing career, as there is a nugget of promise there, but I would suggest a good year of quiet research next time, before presenting the resulting manuscript to a good friend who can point out the gaps and inconsistencies before it is published.
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Review Details

Item

Reviewer

Mal Page
(VINE VOICE)   

Location: UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 44,964