SEPULCHRE - Kate Mosse
SEPULCHRE certainly appears to be a formidable prospect when you consider the weight of historical content, and of course simply the weight of the edition as it is another house brick sized novel (as was the hugely successful LABYRINTH).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.
One girl in the past, one girl in the present.
A Parisian debutante accompanies her brother for a stay in the countryside of uncertain duration. Leonie loves her brother Anatole but is certainly not blind to the freely available sins easily accessed by a young man in such a town, and of the wisdom in leaving them firmly behind. Anatole is still a lover in mourning, and Leonie would prefer to remain with her brother than be extra baggage in her mother's life as she tries to ensnare herself another husband and in the process, secure the future of them all. It is a turbulent time to be away from all that you know, and in addition both the country house and its mistress are unnerving to the impressionable Leonie.
Meredith Martin in the present day is also far from things familiar to her, as she embarks on a trip through southern France to do a little detecting for her own purposes. L'Hotel Domaine de La Cade overlooking the spa town of Rennes-Les-Baines is where she hopes her novel on Claude Debussy will come alive. The preparation work in London on this trip and six years prior of research have led her to this one place - and a looming publishing deadline impresses the importance of the visit upon her also. A unexpected Tarot reading and the shock of seeing her face in the cards of a little known Tarot discipline diverts Meredith away from her original mission, and instead to investigating the mysteries of her own family history.