Top critical review
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Plot completely unbelievable
on 6 October 2016
When Elizabeth dies she leaves a puzzle to be solved and the person she has chosen to do this is Father Anslem who before he became a monk was once a practising barrister. Elizabeth has been obsessed with the case of a man who she had successfully defended who she later discovered was guilty and she wants to fix this. She has hidden her clues and it is Anslem's role to follow the trail.
This is well written and the author is excellent at creating atmosphere and a sense of place. He present moral issues and explores them in his plot. The book is not filled with action but the characters and what does happen seems very realistic.
The problem with the book is the plot. Firstly, it seems very unlikely that a successful barrister would have the attack of conscience that Elizabeth has here. It is not, and never has been, the job of the advocate to make any form of judgement about the guilt of an individual. It is their role to present the case for the defence and t test the case for the prosecution - if the case isn't good enough then the person who has been charged is decreed not guilty. It appears that Anselm is also complicit in that he asked a question in court that caused the prosecution's case to fail - I accept that he feels unhappy about the grief that this caused but it was his job and he appears to have done it well. This all seems very unlikely.
Equally unlikely is the whole puzzle and the hidden clues. Why on earth didn't Elizabeth just tell Anselm what he needed to know rather than engineer such a performance ? Entrusting an important piece of the puzzle to a man with no short term memory wasn't exactly a work of genius either.
The plot was unbelievable, the motivations unlikely but the writing and plotting, after you have accepted the preposterous, clever.