Title: Bristol House
Author: Beverly Swerling
Review: On the surface this book was hitting all the things I like. You have a wandering academic in England tracking down some small piece of history, only to get involved with some shadow organization and a much larger conspiracy. So working through and against time can she piece together the clues and codes left by our historical heroes and save the day? And if that wasn’t enough it had a nice romance layered on top of the whole thing. What is not to love?
Well unfortunately at no point did this book ever take hold of me and compel me to keep reading. Instead I found I would go days in-between readings and couldn’t muster the excitement to dive back in. I wasn’t really interested in the characters and the plot was a little too overblown. Now overblown plots are to be expected in this sort of literature , but usually the author will make it seem a little more real in spite of it.
Then we had the unrealistic stacking of coincidences like she gets hired by a wealthy business man to track down his pet historical interest. Then just about the first person she meets (and future love interest) just happens to be a journalist with a major desire to prove said business man is out to destroy the world. And this was just a chance meeting. The book carries on like this with a lot of the double C’s (convenient coincidences); it is riddled with them.
At the end of the day the story had a good heart and you could see where it wanted to go. I would love to see how this author does after getting a few more thrillers under her belt so she could avoid all the clichés of the genre she fell for this time through. A good outline of a story but not terribly well executed.
Quick Review: 3 stars out of 5
Why I Read It: Had a history mystery feel to it in the description (think Dan Brown)
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review.
Synopsis: In the tradition of Kate Mosse, a swiftly-paced mystery that stretches from modern London to Tudor England
In modern-day London, architectural historian and recovering alcoholic Annie Kendall hopes to turn her life around and restart her career by locating several long-missing pieces of ancient Judaica. Geoff Harris, an investigative reporter, is soon drawn into her quest, both by romantic interest and suspicions about the head of the Shalom Foundation, the organization sponsoring her work. He’s also a dead ringer for the ghost of a monk Annie believes she has seen at the flat she is subletting in Bristol House.
In 1535, Tudor London is a very different city, one in which monks are being executed by Henry VIII and Jews are banished. In this treacherous environment of religious persecution, Dom Justin, a Carthusian monk, and a goldsmith known as the Jew of Holborn must navigate a shadowy world of intrigue involving Thomas Cromwell, Jewish treasure, and sexual secrets. Their struggles shed light on the mysteries Annie and Geoff aim to puzzle out—at their own peril.
This riveting dual-period narrative seamlessly blends a haunting supernatural thriller with vivid historical fiction. Beverly Swerling, widely acclaimed for her City of Dreams series, delivers a bewitching and epic story of a historian and a monk, half a millennium apart, whose destinies are on a collision course.
Author Biography: I’m told that a number of critics who have said kind things about my books, have been less kind about the very brief bio on my book jackets. First, don’t blame Simon & Schuster; it’s my fault. Publishers use the data supplied by the author for this kind of thing, and I didn’t supply much. I guess because it seems that almost everything needs a long explanation. Which is probably me being egotistical. What do you care, right? You buy my books to be entertained (and very grateful I am), you don’t give two hoots about me.
But there are those picky critics…
Here then is a somewhat less abbreviated version.
I grew up in the Boston suburb of Revere, and while I won’t tell you when, I will say that it was very different from what it is today. The beach was, as it still is, one of the natural wonders of the state of Massachusetts, but the front was NOT lined with condo high-rises. It was a boardwalk with stands selling fried clams (Massachusetts has the world’s best fried clams – made from the Ipswich soft shells, they remain what I’d choose for my last meal on this earth) and French fries and soft ice cream that we called frozen custard. Plus there were all kinds of gambling games of the sort found at any fairground – pitch ‘til you win, folks! – and a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster and a tunnel of love.
Another feature of Revere back then was that it was almost entirely either Jewish or Italian (my own family is a mixture of both) and because the town had a dog track – Wonderland - and a horse track – Suffolk Downs – there was a lot of what is politely called off-track betting. Which wasn’t legal then, and for all I know still is not. Nonetheless, any number of family members rented rooms to bookies – the chief requirement being that these gentlemen of the turf had to be able to see one or the other of the tote boards with binoculars, (a world without cell phones, remember) and know how much they were liable to pay out, which in turn affected what odds they could offer on the next race.
I went from that upstanding childhood to a small Catholic girls college in the Midwest, then a job in New York as a file clerk to support my writing – all non-fiction at first – until I was able to earn my way as a free lance journalist.
For a time after that I lived in Europe.
Where I got married for a brief and unpleasant period, then came home and wrote more non-fiction. And got married again.
And went back to Europe.
And started writing fiction, and – hallelujah! – selling it.
And came back to New York with my by now long time husband, and began writing City of Dreams…
Which just about catches you up. Except for the bits I’ve left out.
And, oh yes, one other important part of my life and my work: On that so brief bio on the S&S book jacket it mentions that I’m a consultant. Many people have asked me what kind.
West Metro Mommy Reads