I’m rarely surprised anymore when reading a book or watching a movie. It’s not that I’m jaded. It’s that they have become formulaic. Expected. Commonplace. This novel appeared to be the same. However, the author at one point managed to surprise — in fact, more than once in the first half of the novel — while entertaining. I had some “aw geez, don’t go there” moments when things started getting a bit cliché, though. Then, it seemed to get better, then near the end…well, getting a bit ahead of myself here.
The good points of the novel: 1) the use of a literary device of omniscience and the rather cute way he has of informing his audience he is doing this; 2) the use of language (I have to point out, though, that this is as much due to the translator as the author, since the novel was written originally in Spanish); and 3) the historical references being tied together in an artful way. Considering that the novel takes place in England but was written by someone born and raised in Spain, the novel has a very authentic British feel to it.
The bad points of the novel: 1) overly graphic in some places; 2) just plain silly in others; and 3) rather disappointing overall, sort of like sitting down to a meal that smells good and initially tastes good but that ends up being rather mediocre.
Some reviewers have “ooh”ed and “aah”ed over this book. I cannot join their chorus. After leading readers through an almost tortuous labyrinth about the myth of time travel, and after making sure his readers know that time travel is not possible, he twists around and proposes the opposite. Rubbish! And very disappointing. This is presented as a murder mystery, not fantasy fiction. When I reached that point in the novel, I kept hoping that Senor Palma was once again going to reveal the hoax, as he had done twice previously. Sadly, those hopes were dashed. Worse yet was the fizzling nature of the last chapter or so. After all that winding back and forth previously and involving such historical figures as H.G. Wells in his journey, the nature of the ending was a huge let down.
One final note: there was one good thing about the novel, and that was the wonderful tea I enjoyed while reading it.
© 2013 A.C. Cargill photos and text