I debated over whether or not to read this one before giving away my spare copy (from Reading Group Choices, but I thought, "Eh, it's Shakespeare meets DaVinci Code. I'm sure I'll love it!" So I decided to post the giveaway with the review, which means that I'm saying, "I really didn't like this book! Don't you want a copy?" This is very reminiscent of my little brother at the dinner table as a small child. He would take a tiny bite of something he hated and then offer up big bites to everyone else at the table. "Mmmmm," he'd say, "This is SO good. Dad, you should try some! Mom, have a bite!" So let me assure you, I planned to give this away all along, and I'm still going to because everyone's taste is different, and you may love it. Rules for the giveaway after the review.
I was excited to read Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell, which was being touted as The DaVinci Code meets Shakespeare. Carrell knows her stuff; she has a Ph.D in English and American Literature from Harvard, among other qualifications, and like her protagonist, she's directed Shakespeare. Unfortunately, this "stuff" is conveyed via long lectures in the text. It's not a good sign when I plow through a book just to get to the end and then am riveted by the Author's Note. It means that something went awry with the storytelling. The plot is promising: Former academic Kate Stanley has a visit from her estranged mentor, Roz, the night before Kate's production of Hamlet opens at the Globe Theater. Roz tells Kate she's found something and gives her a box. After the Globe burns down and Roz's body is found, Kate opens the box to find a brooch and a cryptic note that seems to point to Cardenio, Shakespeare's lost play. With her friend, Sir Henry, she determines that she has to get to Harvard, where she is menaced by mysterious bad guys with Shakespearean threats and meet Roz's nephew Ben, a security expert hired to protect her. Oh, and the British police think Kate might have killed Roz, but they don't really do much about it. Kate and Ben run from library to library on two continents, fleeing bad guys and police and looking for more clues. The bodies are piling up, but since Kate barely seems to care, the reader doesn't either. I'm not sure if Carrell is being ironic when she has Kate say "My God!" when a new piece of mildly interesting inconclusive information seeming to point to Shakespeare's true identity is found. I'm not sure it matters.
I'm not saying The DaVinci Code is great literature; Dan Brown's writing "style" drove me to distraction, but it was good for what it was. Brown kept me interested in the story with high stakes, breakneck pacing, and pieces of the puzzle coming together quicky. He did not have elegant prose or three-dimensional characters, but he didn't need one to make the book entertaining. For some reason, I just didn't get the same sense of high stakes in Interred. Okay, there's a lost play by Shakespeare. And someone might kill to get it. But the question of Shakespeare's true identity overshadowed the search for Cardenio, and I just wasn't buying it as something a person would kill so many people (in dramatic, Shakespearean fashion, no less) to conceal. And I just didn't get Kate. She decides to investigate herself despite the rising body count, instead of turning her information over to the police. She decides to trust or mistrust other characters on some whim, and she makes wildly speculative assumptions in one moment, only to declare "It's not proof positive" in the face of fairly convincing proof in another. The plot pacing was not very exciting for me. The pattern went: find a clue, get chased by bad guys, run to the next library, find a clue, get chased... You get the idea. There were plot twists, but nothing that really redeemed it for me. And if one more bad guy announced his presence in the dark with the hiss of a knife being pulled from its sheath, I thought I might scream.
In short, I thought this was much ado about nothing. The blurbs on the back of the book take pains to portray the book as "literary," "high class," and "intellectual." They certainly describe the author, but I'm not sure they describe this not-very-thrilling thriller.
Okay, so after all that...who wants a copy? Leave a comment here telling me what makes you want to read the book (or if you're planning to give it as a Christmas gift--it is brand new). For a bonus entry, tell me about your favorite suspense novel! For three bonus entries, post about this contest on your blog and tell me that you did. You have until Monday, December 15 at noon EST to enter! My postage budget for the year is shot, so I have to make this one U.S.-only. Good luck!