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More "Corporal Jones" than "Indiana Jones", I'm afraid.........
on 9 September 2014
As I write this review, there are another seven reviews on this book all giving better marks than I, but I can only speak as I find. This is not in any sense a detective novel - it is a tale of seeking out pieces of a long-lost document from a long-dead Chinese Emperor in order to find and sack his hidden tomb.
First, some quibbles:
1) The setting is 1920's China and the heroine originally Spanish domiciled in Paris, but some of the language is 21st Century American - "Get!" (as in "Get moving" or "Get outta here!"), "Gotten", "fit" (for "fitted" or "fitted to") & "You likely think about Death a lot" (supposedly from an nonagenarian Chinese nun) are just some examples. I don't mind modern dialogue where appropriate, but this is lazy and detracts from the work's effectiveness.
2) The chapters are interminably long, thousands of (Kindle) pages long in some instances and I found this annoying and tiring. Why???!! The whole book is contained in six chapters, so, if you're one of those who thinks "I'll just read to the end of this chapter", be warned!
3) The denouement is, literally, incredible - having lavished a lot of time and effort on narrating a reasonable but not particularly suspenseful "Tomb Raider" tale, the author gives her reader an utterly implausible scenario to finish it off in the penultimate chapter.
4) (*** Spoiler Alert ***) If you like happy endings, this is the book for you, all tied up with bows, ribbons and la sprinkling of stardust!
5) The characters, particularly the heroine/narrator, are inconsistent and not believable - we are supposed to believe that a conservative, presumably middle-aged female artist living a sedentary middle-class existence in 1920's Paris is transformed overnight into an "Indiana Jones"-type adventurer able to survive extreme weather, privations and long marches.
The initial premise of the story is a good one - it's just not particularly well done. The few action sequences are very poor, lacking any tension or credibility and are over instantly. The dialogue between the characters is pedestrian and the whole thing's just tedious - the best bit of the whole book is within the Emperor's tomb, which is well-described, but, again, lacks any real tension - there is no real sense that the "team" are in any jeopardy.
There is a wealth of detail in this book about Chinese history, tradition and culture (possibly too much) which displays an impressive amount of knowledge and research on the part of the author but it starts to read more like a lecture - the historical detail is not woven into the fabric of the story with sufficient skill.
Sorry - the overall result is just poor.