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Great premise, disappointing execution
on 17 June 2011
I was intrigued by the blurb of this novel, but I have to confess my expectations were disappointed. As a character, Hildegard seems somewhat lacking. She's nice, and shows courage when required, but...more of an automaton than a human being. She's perhaps a little too good, a little too much the victim of circumstance. I don't rightly know why an assassin would bother trailing halfway across Europe after her. Despite having not one but three admirers in the book, she seems oblivious to all of it. And it would undoubtedly have helped if I'd read the first book in the series, because the number of characters introduced towards the end becomes bewildering. I could forgive that if it weren't for a meandering plot with a fizzer of an ending. One minute Hildegard's going to Rome, then the next she gets a letter telling her it's Florence, with no explanation. Sidelines go absolutely nowhere. What of Pierrekyn's antecedents? Who the hell is the shadowy Countess in Florence? She seems like a major player, only to make a brief and ultimately toothless cameo. And virtually everybody takes a turn as the possible murderer, throwing out threatening and elliptical comments for no apparent reason, simply to add to the atmosphere of menace. A bit more about the cross, the supposed crux - aha - of the story, would have been nice too.
In my estimation there are far better medieval murder mysteries out there, including Ariana Franklin, 'Death and the Devil' by Frank Schatzing, and (getting into Tudor times) C J Sansom. But it's early days for Hildegard, and maybe future books will improve.