Have you ever heard/read of the word "juddered"? Not jetted, not jarred, not shuddered... "juddered." Used in the context of this novel (and it was used twice), it was something like "juddered to a halt." Now... I've never seen this word before, but it certainly made me judder to a halt. Though Dictionary.com suggests "judder" means "to vibrate violently," which means I'm not quite sure it means what Mosse wanted it to mean, but if anyone has more info on this, please pass it along. I am totally willing to have my vocabulary expanded.

But why do I mention this as the first point in my review of Sepulchre? Well, not because Mosse's writing is jarring or because it makes me slam on the brakes and quickly end something. It's more because both Mosse novels have let me go along for a while, but then ultimately caused me to tilt my head and ask if perhaps we couldn't have had one more pass with an editor, because a few things could use some review and tightening up.

Don't get me wrong, clearly I enjoy Mosse's novels. I sought this one out as soon as I found it in paperback and I know that I'll read whatever else she writes. The best part of a Mosse novel is the beginning... as you meet the characters, ease into the story, and start absorbing the time period. Kate Mosse writes quite well as a historical fiction novelist. Note: I actually do mean a historical fiction novelist here, not a historical romance novelist, as so many female historical writers seem to be these days if there's any hint of romance in the book. And I also want to point out that she is, indeed, a novelist, in the sense that her plot line takes precedence. Mosse clearly does her research when she invests herself in a time period and she's in love with the south of France, which you can also tell from her descriptions of the country. Mosse crafts intricate plot lines, embellishes with beautiful historic detail, and conjures likable characters (though her modern characters are not always quite as fleshed out as the period characters, and they often feel too full of the echoes of the past to have enough personality of their own). But ultimately, it's this ability that makes me expect a little more from her when we keep moving through the novel. These books are suffused with suspense and tinged with the supernatural, but about two thirds through Sepulchre (and, for that matter, Labyrinth), I set the book down with a sigh because I was getting a little tired of the build-up to an ending which I'd already figured out. I won't give anything away, but trust me, you'll figure it out long before the book gets there.

If you have read Labyrinth, then Sepulchre's format will seem familiar with the dual plotline format. (Indeed, even a few characters will be familiar to you.) In the late nineteenth century, a brother and sister have traveled from Paris to visit their aunt in a small town outside of Carcassonne. This aunt has inherited her husband's estate upon his death, a house that has a great many dark and mysterious legends surrounding it. Here we have secret lovers, murder, feigned deaths, desperate attempts to flee evil villains, duels, and dabblings in the occult. In the twenty-first century, we have a young woman who is trying to finish a book on Debussy and, while she's at it, piece together some family history of her own. Here we have the beginnings of a romance, murder, a not-quite-evil-but-mostly-just-led-astray villain, and some more tame dabblings in the occult. Unsurprisingly, these times are tied together and the modern era's quest to discover what happened in the past will also attempt to right any wrongs leftover.

Ultimately, I would say that as long as you're not expecting too much of this novel and you enjoy period novels, then there's a high chance that you'll be pleased with this. Mosse clearly has the researcher's need for detail and that always makes me feel like we're starting on the right foot, but something still needs to come together with the gothic novel part, whether that's inserting a real twist or what. I still finished feeling like I wanted something more, and not just another Mosse novel, though I'll be looking for that, too.

No comments: