Although she was a logical, practical person, she believed that in books there existed a kind of magic. Between the aging covers on these shelves, contained in tiny, abstract black marks on sheets of paper, were voices from the past. Voices that reached into the future, into Claire’s own life and heart and mind, to tell her what they knew, what they’d learned, what they’d seen, what they’d felt. Wasn’t that magic? – The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips
Welcome to the Book Blog Tour of The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips! The Devlin Diary is Christi Phillips’ second novel, and follows her bestselling The Rossetti Letter. This second novel carries over two lead characters from The Rossetti Letter: Harvard History PhD Claire Donovan and Cambridge History Professor Andrew Kent and spans two different time periods: London in 1672 and Cambridge in 2008. In The Devlin Diary, Claire Donovan and Andrew Kent are drawn to a mystery at the court of Charles Stuart — a mystery with dangerous consequences in the 1670s and in the present.
From the bestselling author of The Rossetti Letter comes a “thrilling” novel of intrigue, passion, and royal secrets that shifts tantalizingly between Restoration-era London and present-day Cambridge, England.
London, 1672. A vicious killer stalks the court of Charles II, inscribing the victims’ bodies with mysterious markings. Are the murders the random acts of a madman? Or the violent effects of a deeply hidden conspiracy?
Cambridge, 2008. Teaching history at Trinity College is Claire Donovan’s dream come true — until one of her colleagues is found dead on the banks of the River Cam. The only key to the professor’s unsolved murder is the seventeenth-century diary kept by his last research subject, Hannah Devlin, physician to the king’s mistress. Through the arcane collection of Cambridge’s most eminent libraries, Claire and fellow historian Andrew Kent follow the clues Hannah left behind, uncovering secrets of London’s dark past and Cambridge’s murky present and discovering that the events of three hundred years ago still have consequences today.
I haven’t read The Rossetti Letter, so I approached The Devlin Diary as a standalone novel. On its own, The Devlin Diary is a satisfying read.
The book opens in 1670 in the Palace of Saint-Cloud in Paris at the sickbed of Princess Henriette-Anne, the wife of the Duc d’Orlean, sister-in-law to King Louis XIV of France and sister to King Charles Stuart of England. Princess Henriette-Anne has suddenly fallen sick and is in great pain, it is clear that she is not expected to live much longer. Surrounded by courtiers from France and England, the Princess has little privacy. In her last moments, she calls on an obscure Englishman, Robert Osborne, and it is to him that she whispers her last instructions.
The book jumps to London in 1672 where we meet Mrs. Hannah Devlin, the widowed daughter of two doctors who practices medicine as a physician and a “physick.” Under the laws of the time, the College of Physicians and medical societies exclude women; Mrs. Devlin cannot qualify to practice medicine and risks a criminal charge of practicing medicine without a license. But Mrs. Devlin’s practice is limited to poor and common folk with whom she has established a reputation for competence and skill, and she is safe as long as she remains unnoticed. It should be noted that Mrs. Devlin’s medical training and skill is impeccable – she’s learned from her parents who were both respected doctors. Her father had been physician to the King until a political disagreement caused him to be exiled from Court. Her mother had trained and practiced medicine in France, but upon her marriage was limited to acting as a “physick” and assisting her husband in his medical practice.
Mrs. Devlin is grabbed off the streets and brought to the King’s residence at Whitehall to treat a favorite’s suspicious illness. The diagnosis and treatment are within Hannah Devlin’s competence, but the politics and intrigue at court may be her downfall. Hannah Devlin parries with Lord Arlington, a powerful man whose stormy relationship with her father threatens Hannah’s own safety. Through her work at court, Mrs. Devlin befriends Dr. Edward Strathern who is newly appointed to run the anatomy theater at the College of Physicians. When members of court are murdered in a grisly and disturbing manner, Mrs. Devlin and Dr. Strathern work together to make sense of the killer’s clues and to hunt down the murderer before he can kill again.
The Devlin Diary alternates between the story of Mrs. Devlin in the 1680s and Dr. Claire Donovan at Trinity College, Cambridge in 2008. Soon after solving the mystery behind The Rossetti Letter, Claire Donovan has been offered a prestigious fellowship at Cambridge University. While exploring an arcane collection in one of Cambridge’s most eminent libraries, Claire Donovan comes across a slim volume written in code in the 1600s. As Claire deciphers the text, she realizes that she’s found an account of unsolved murders during the time of King Charles Stuart. When a fellow historian is murdered, Claire Donovan and Andrew Kent search for links between the recent murder and the mysterious journal.
Christi Phillips combines historical fiction with a complex and well crafted mystery. If you’re fond of unusual mysteries and historical fiction and looking for an engrossing, satisfying read, check out The Devlin Diary. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve just ordered the earlier novel, The Rossetti Letter.
ISBN-10: 1416527397 – Trade Paperback $15.00
Publisher: Pocket (May 12, 2009), 448 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
About the Author:
Christi Phillips is the author of The Rossetti Letter, which has been translated into seven foreign languages. Her interest in European history has led her all over the continent. She lives in the San Fransisco Bay Area, where she is at work on her next novel, set in France. Visit Christi Phillips’ website at www.christi–phillips.com to learn more.
Would you like to learn more about The Devlin Diary? Check out other reviews at these participating blogs:
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My Five Monkeys: http://www.tableforseven–julie.blogspot.com/
The Bibliophilic Book Blog: http://www.bibliophilicbookblog.com/
A Journey of Books: http://ajourneyofbooks.halfzero.net/
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Just Another New Blog: http://justanothernewblog.blogspot.com/
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Lucky Rosie’s: http://www.luckyrosiescreations.blogspot.com/
Celtic Lady’s Reviews: http://www.celticladysreviews.blogspot.com/
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Thrifty and Frugal Living: http://www.thriftyandfrugalliving.com/
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Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster and PocketBooks for this review opportunity!