Monday, May 21, 2012
The Illusion of Murder
I read the first book The Alchemy of Murder last year and enjoyed it enough to pick up this second book when I happened to spot it at my library. This one focus on Nellie's famous journey around the world trying to best the record set by Jules Verne's characters in Around the World in 80 Days. So many people thought a woman couldn't handle it but that only fuels Nellie's determination to see it through. No matter the difficulties, Nellie will make it around the world and write a story about it.
This is challenged when Nellie witnesses what she is convinced is a murder in Egypt. Her companions try to convince her otherwise and ask for discretion as they are British citizens worried about the powder keg that is Egypt during that time. As they continue on their journey, Nellie pushes her theory, putting herself into danger and learning more about the larger plot.
I do like Nellie, a brave and daring woman who bristles at the suggestion that she might not be able to do something simply because she is a woman. But I really had trouble sympathizing with her quest to prove that a murder had occurred and to prod the people around her to do something about it. The situation seemed like Nellie was grasping at straws and using her imagination to provide conflict for the book; I didn't believe Nellie either although I knew that she had to be right about a murder or else the novel would be pointless. I just felt like she made some big leaps in her deductions that were not supportable.
Also I found most of the novel really slow. Even though Nellie travels eastward from Egypt to New York over the course of the book, I didn't really think it picked up until she was back in the States and racing an unknown competitor along with getting to the heart of the mystery. When everyone is together on a train for the conclusion, I could not turn the pages fast enough! The denouement was a bit muddled for me but I was also reading really fast.
On a historical note, it seems so bizarre to me that a journey around the world could take months; now you could take a plane over the course of a day. Just goes to show how much things can change in just about a century! And like the previous novel, we have some visits from famous personages although I cannot reveal their identity as it was a nice surprise for me to see them in the book.
Overall: Slow beginning with improbable leaps in logic by the main character was my main impression but the ending did tie everything together. This is a lighter mystery with lots of character and historical details for the careful reader to savor.