Friday, May 08, 2009
Docketful of Poesy by Diana Killian
I recently reviewed Diana Killian's Docketful of Poesy for Mystery News. The review is reprinted here, with permission.
Docketful of Poesy
by Diana Killian
Grace Hollister is an academic, a teacher and poetry scholar who happened to fall in love with a reformed jewel thief turned antiques dealer. Now, her memoir of her escapades with Peter Fox has been picked up by a cable film company. While visiting her family in California, she gets to watch the production, but she’s not impressed with the professionalism. She’s been delaying her return to England and Peter, but after six months, he shows up in California. After seeing him again, and observing him bear up under her family’s scrutiny, Grace is eager to return to the Lake District. She’s even more eager to go home when she and Peter witness the scriptwriter’s death, a victim of a hit-and-run driver.
If she thought she could escape from the film crew, Grace is sadly mistaken. The film producer begs her to take over the scriptwriter’s duties, and moves the entire production to England. Grace was hoping to move in with Peter, and spend time with him. Instead, after masked gunmen invade the property, shooting up Peter’s antiques gallery, and return a second time when the movie crew is on hand, Peter rents a room for her at a local hotel. Soon, Grace is spending her evenings drinking with the crew, while Peter investigates links with his past. When crew members become victims, Grace and Peter realize he might not be the only target.
An academic and a reformed jewel thief are too reminiscent of Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss novels with her art curator, Vicky and her long-time lover, and thief, John Tregarth. And, the author tried too hard to make Grace Hollister into an academic, including too much information about women poets of the Romantic period. That secondary storyline about poet Laetitia Landon opened the book, but had little relevance to the story of Grace, Peter, and the film. Killian may have needed the poetry to make this mystery part of her “Poetic Death Mystery” series, but the poetry aspects are dull and boring. The book would be more readable without the unnecessary poetry aspects.
The ending of Docketful of Poesy is a major problem. The author seemed to pick a character to be the villain, but provided no motivation or background for the character. Except for Grace and Peter, characters were not well-developed in the book, and the villain’s background needed to be fleshed out.
Is this a crime novel? Is it a story about a forgotten poet? Is it a romance between Grace and Peter? Docketful of Poesy is a crime novel trying too hard to be everything.
Rating: 2 ½
Reprinted, with permission, from Mystery News, Volume 27, Issue 2, April/May 2009.
Diana Killian's website is www.girl-detective.net
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