RogerBW's Blog

Castle Rouge, Carole Nelson Douglas 26 February 2017

2002 historical mystery, sixth of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. Following the events of Chapel Noir, our protagonists variously head east to put an end to the Ripper mystery.

This book has another slow and bitty start: as in Chapel Noir there are two main narratives and occasional intrusions of another, but this time Nell, Irene's companion and scribe, spends much of the book as a prisoner. If you enjoy Douglas writing "Nell writing about Irene", well, that's mostly not here; instead it's Douglas writing "Pink writing about Irene", alternating with Nell writing about other things, and while Douglas correctly changes narrative tone and writing style for these sections, neither is as much fun as the approach the series has taken before. Nell's perspective on Irene is vital to set the tone; Pink just can't carry it off the same way, perhaps because of the constraints of being a real historical character (and indeed quite an interesting one). I find with some surprise that it's Nell I really want to read about, especially when she undergoes some profound character development.

Bram and Godfrey said nothing, but I could feel their sturdy forms pressing against mine like shields. Such a gesture was well intentioned, but it forced my arms against my sides so that I would be much impeded should I wish to extract and use James Kelly's long-bladed knife.

I began to sense the roots of Irene's annoyance with social chivalry.

There are oddities of writing: "effected" in place of "affected" could be a typo or a one-bit error, but "only my path had always been set on this path" smacks of someone writing with a word processor, followed by nobody reading over the draft before it was printed.

It's all right, I suppose; there's an awful lot of historical and literary research for a "guilty pleasure" book, which is ideal as far as I'm concerned. There's also a continuing dark tone that doesn't always work well, but when things finally get moving in Transylvania towards the end the resolution is quite satisfactory.

Yes, Douglas has an answer to the question of who the "real" Ripper was. And it's certainly an audacious one (gur lbhat Tevtbev Lrsvzbivpu Enfchgva): points for style, if not for ready plausibility.

Followed by Femme Fatale.

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