Maybe it just lacked focus? Maybe it was taking on a topic that in the end was too broad and too murky?
The basic storyline follows the investigations of a police chief into an escalating and expanding series of poisonings, plots, satanism, and possible human sacrifice (the last never completely confirmed). I think the problem comes from how unconnected a lot of the suspects were, and how the implications to high politics were always vague at best.
Thus we end up spending chapters on one noble woman methodically assassinating the majority of her family, whose plot is only to prime the later panic, but doesn't really have much else to do with the book. We also spend chapters and chapters on everyone Louis XIV was sleeping with, which was a lot of people, man, only two of whom were actually relevant to the whole poisoning/satanism issue.
I'm all for setting up background, but it seemed to be a lot of background to actual investigation ratio going on in this book. Which might of been a good thing, because the investigation involved very little gumshoe shenanigans and a heck of a lot of torturing the fuck out of people. Which was graphically described. So.
The writing itself was fairly good; a lot of the slice of life period detail was interesting, and I always like Kate Reading's narration. I dunno, Vive la révolution, I guess.
This story is spread out between three women - three women who are strong willed and unwilling to conform to the world around them. They fought, loved, and lived through some of the most troubling times in history. Aveline who has her life arranged for her by her family, but wants something different. Vi, who refuses to sit back and watch the world change around her. Ellie - who wants to unlock the secrets of her grandmothers life, but unwilling to budge on what she sets her mind to.
Ellie wants to know about her grandmothers past, and the secrets that are locked within the confines of her mind. Alzheimer's has ravaged the once clear and brilliant mind, leaving her millions of miles away - not always knowing her granddaughter, or where she is. The secrets that haunt her grandmother send Ellie off on a search for the answers - all the way to France.
Once there, she encounters Quinn, who holds almost as many secrets as her grandmother. As the stories flip between Aveline, Vi and Ellie, the past comes to life once more.
Aveline's story really spoke to me. The French Revolution was a dangerous time. But her concern was not the money or the social standing. She bucked convention and tried to help those who needed it the most. Instead of marrying the man that was set before her, she found love in one of the most unlikely places, with someone who was willing to look past the scars and accept her for who she was.
Vi was someone who wanted to do her part in the war, no matter the cost to her, because she believed in what they were fighting for.
I really enjoyed reading through this book. It held my attention throughout, and the flipping back and forth was not really hard to follow at all.
As a career diplomat during the Victorian era, Richard Lyons served as one of the figures who defined and represented British power in the 19th century. The son of a Royal Navy admiral, Lyons entered the diplomatic service after an indifferent educational performance. He quickly proved a good fit for his new profession, serving first in Greece and then in Rome before gaining appointment as minister to the United States in 1858. In this post, Lyons soon found himself at the center of the turmoil surrounding secession and civil war, and he played a prominent role in representing British interests while steering Britain clear of greater involvement in the conflict. Such was the growing regard for Lyons that after his resignation he was appointed to run the embassies, first in Constantinople, then in Paris, where he spent two decades as ambassador during a critical period in French history.
In an era when diplomats exercised considerable autonomy, Lyons played a prominent role in shaping British foreign policy throughout his career. For this reason alone Brian Jenkins is to be commended for giving Lyons the attention he deserves, yet this is only one reason why Jenkins deserves praise for this book. He has written an exemplary biography of his subject, one that draws upon the full range of primary and secondary sources available to him. He strikes an ideal balance between context and personal detail, situating Lyons within the constantly changing context of the political and diplomatic environments in which he served. Nor does he neglect Lyons as a person, showing him as a man devoted to his career yet one who was an individual with his own quirks and problems. The result makes it clear why Lyons was lauded upon his death as "the idea of a pattern and ideal diplomatist," one who established the standard by which modern diplomats are judged. In that respect Jenkins's book is an unqualified success, one that should be read by everyone interested in diplomatic history and the history of British foreign policy.