Challenge completed: Turned out to be far harder than I could've imagined!
Maybe I should've been tipped off by the names of the characters ('Chase Manhatten', 'Wanda' who has eyes like a fish...)
Maybe I should've known by the names of the renaissance-style shops (Wicked Weaves, The Feathered Shaft, The King's Tarts, Harriet's Hat House).
Maybe I should've realised that being purchased in 'largeprint paperback' only at our library is the equivalent of going 'straight to DVD' for movies.
And maybe I should've given up when the first 70 pages was about basket weaving. ( I shit you not).
I really wanted this to suprise me. I really wanted it to be good. I really wanted to have this whole new exciting genre to read and get excited about.
This book is terrible. Utterly terrible.
And believe me, this is no small feat. I rarely dislike any book I read. I read all kinds of things. I'm pretty easily amused. I'm pretty easy to please and I usually find something I like about everything.
I also usually keep my reviews to a paragraph or two, on the premise that I never have time to read lengthy reviews, I just wanna know: "Did you like it? Should I read it?", and I figure there's probably others out there like me.
This book is the exception to all of that.
The plot was confusing.
The dialogue was clumsy and confusing.
The characters are two-dimensional, lacking motivation, and... confusing.
For example, let's take the character of Mary, who is suspected of committing the murder central to the book. Allegedly she's extremely "secretive", but at the same time, appears to offer anecdotes and stories about herself numerous times and is described as a great story teller. However, her background story (when she offers it) is laughably unrealistic:
"Joshua lied to me. I left our boy Jah with him. I was supposed to see Jah every so often. A few months after I left home, Joshua told me he died from the same thing that killed Abraham's son. I grieved, but I went on. I never went back"
What?! As easy as that, eh? "Oh, my son's dead. Apparently. Oh well - moving on..." And apparently we are meant to feel empathy with her when her son reappears - alive - and a wee bit bitter.
Oh but she's not the only wingnut in the book. There's a 'king' and 'queen' who are so oblivious to reality that they stage a jousting reenactment which takes precedence over the REAL murder investigation! And a band of baker 'monks' who hold mysterious 'freemason' -style gatherings in the renaissance bakery - in a kind of Davinci Code parody. And the 'romance' between the lead characters is just annoying. It's more hot and cold than a teen vampire flick and it just adds to the superficiality of the characters and relationships in general.
In fact if I was someone interested in renaissance/medieval re-enactment, I would be insulted by the portrayal of the characters in this book.
I wish I could say this book is worth a read just for a laugh - but I wouldn't bother. It's not even that interesting in an ironic sense.
I wonder if the 'Amish Mysteries' would be any better ...? :)