Thursday, September 3, 2020

Casanova and the Faceless Woman - Olivier Barde-Cabuçon

I love the Pushkin Vertigo series, and have for the most part hit it off with every book I've read from it - 'Casanova and the Faceless Woman' is possibly the exception that proves the rule though. I didn't dislike this book, it's a decent page turner which I read over a couple of days, I'd probably buy and read more of Olivier Barde-Cabuçon series (it a case for the Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths) if they're translated into English, but I didn't love it.

The back blurb talks about 'A heretic monk, a fortune teller, a secret society...' which sounds very promising, but it's not half of what's going on and that in the end was my problem - there was just to much happening.

The monk might not be a monk, or maybe he's been a monk. the Inspector is an intriguing character but feels under developed here  - which wouldn't matter if it was easy to read the rest of the series, but it isn't yet. There is a girl who's a love interest who is even more under developed as a character, and junkets around Paris with dubious men in a way that seems unlikely for a woman in the middle of the 18th century. There isn't just one secret society but several, which turn out not to be especially secret, everybody is trying to murder one another, there's alchemy (has someone really discovered the secret of the philosophers stone?).

I'm not even sure what Casanova is doing here apart from showing off and having quite a bit of sex - which is surely part of his job description, but whilst descriptions are generally not graphic the continued allusions to his activities were tedious to me. The Marquise de Pompadour appears partly in the guise of a madam for the kings harem of underage girls (historically questionable now that I've checked up on it), and there are endless descriptions of clothes and sword fights.

And yet despite all these things and more - so many spies, so many people trying to kill the inspector for no really very good reason, it's still an entertaining enough book. I'm almost certain that my partner would be amused by the bits that I found slightly tedious, and if he had time for light reading at the moment (he's up to his ears trying to get everything ready for his students for the start of this academic year) this is exactly the sort of book I'd try and tempt him with, it just wasn't a perfect fit for me.

If on the other hand freemasons, alchemy, dark doings in the backstreets of Paris, political and religious intrigue, talking magpies, legendary lovers, sword fights, daring escapes, lots of murders, some possible supernatural shenanigans, regicidal plots, complicated love triangles, priapic monarchs, and continual plot twists appeal to you, you'll have hit the jackpot with this. 

No comments:

Post a Comment