SEPULCHRE certainly appears to be a formidable prospect when you consider the weight of historical content, and of course simply the weight of the edition as it is another house brick sized novel (as was the hugely successful LABYRINTH). Both novels have utilized the same tact of luring in an audience expecting some riveting tease of a mystery lost in time and then found again by the present day heroine. SEPULCHRE is pretty vanilla flavoured in that regard, and what could have been a wonderful sub plot with Debussy is sadly never explored. There seems to be other pieces of writing debris left by the wayside in this novel and it is a shame, for with their inclusion, a lot more readers would have been compelled to drive on through the extra unnecessary few hundred pages. Now, that is a lot. Mosse loves her adopted home of southern France and her passion for its people through the ages drives a narrative onward that could have otherwise become quite dry and barren in different hands.
Do not let the size of the book turn you off - much gets said about authors waffling on and losing their audience as SEPULCHRE, despite stretching the concentration of the entertainment seeking reader a tad thin, is such a charming read, geared obviously to appeal to the feminine of the reading species, that the time just skips by. Think of those three hour movies that really only seem like 90 minutes long - SEPULCHRE is like that. Mosse does a sterling job in informing without lecturing and all possible details of the freshness of a new day to the dust of the road are imparted with such enthusiasm that you can't help but be enchanted.
It is just one opinion that Mosse would have done better to ditch all premise of a mystery and instead concentrate on the human dramas of a girl from long ago; the people who lived in this part of France throughout the ages and the contrast with the dilemmas of the modern working girl. Similar paths trodden, centuries apart, that sort of thing. As the last five years of publishing in popular fiction would seem to have proven without a doubt, throw together a chase or two, mysteries hidden in paintings or pieces of music, the odd castle or religious artefact and bang there you have it, a runaway success on your hands. And lets preferably leave out the woo-woo, unless you are John Connolly.
SEPULCHRE has been crafted by loving and respectful hands, this is evident from the very first chapter. Whether it is your cup of mead or not may depend on what you were expecting from the novel as SEPULCHRE being hyped as a historical mystery probably didn't do it any favours, yet it is such a sweet and engaging read as it takes you on a gentle ride through the French countryside. Not an enormous deviation from what we would deem an historical drama, but a well informed and entertaining book that has deservedly been so popular.
LABYRINTH - Kate Mosse
Two young women, born hundreds of years apart, share a bond.
For such a massive tome, the time passes quickly on the read of LABYRINTH. Almost chatty in places for an historical drama, it manages to spin out its tale of holy secrets through the ages in a very comfortable, easy style that invites the kind of coffee and chat it generated during its creation (a six year process). The work in progress of author Kate Mosse on LABYRINTH was live on-line during the novel's creation and spurned a massive amount of interest from the snippets of plot details and historical data that were released en route. Similar has been done with SEPULCHRE, the second standalone work from this author.
The past mirroring the present premise never quite washed with this novel - the modern day scenes read something like a movie-of-the-week thriller and did little to enhance the read. The elusiveness of a plot driver in LABYRINTH was pure frustration - such a long wait for resolution, and when it supposedly came, could it be truly regarded as such? This is a book, perhaps mostly for the ladies, very much written in the melodramatic vein of "the young lady in jeopardy with only her fragile wits and sensibilities", who, of course, somehow manages to find her way through to the truth - delicious, if you are in the mood for such a thing. Those seeking some sort of immensely satisfying historical experience with gratifyingly plausible answers for the past deeds of those pursuing some kind of religious enlightenment - pass on this one.
LABYRINTH is though still an immensely entertaining read as you are caught up in the perils of Alais, her wisdom and bravery, her skills in medieval apothecary, tackling tasks that we assume were mostly foreign to women of her station, British author Kate Mosse shows great affection for her home of Carcassonne and brings the past of the town to bloody glory with her impassioned descriptive narrative. It is quite the love affair of a place, not so much of the story, that dominates this book.