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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

****½ Chapel Noir by Carole Nelson Douglas. Mystery.

I'm so glad I've gotten back into reading this series. I'm even happier that I waited, even though I've been buying the books in hardcover as soon as they've been released. At least I'm happy that I didn't read this one when it first came out.

Why? Because it's part one. Unlike McCammon's recent 2-volume book (#28) & (#11), it wasn't clearly indicated that there was a part one and a part two; nor did it end with a conclusion of any sort. Since part two, Castle Rouge, was right there on my TBR pile, I didn't mind, but I imagine I'd have been rather upset if I'd had to wait a year for it, and not in the good way I was upset about waiting to find out what happened at the end of Evanovich's High Five.

Anyway, ex-opera diva Irene Adler Norton, best known as the only woman to outwit Sherlock Holmes, and her companion Nell Huxleigh are back in Paris, while Irene's husband Godfrey is off to Prague on business for the Rothschilds. Irene gets a summons from An Important Personage to investigate a pair of gruesome murders in a brothel that are uncannily like those of Jack the Ripper some months earlier in London.

Irene and Nell are joined by "Pink," the young prostitute who discovered the bodies. It's soon apparent that Pink isn't exactly what she seems, but Irene brings her home and includes her in their investigations, which also involve the Prince of Wales, Bram Stoker, Sherlock Holmes, and Buffalo Bill.

Once again, I very much enjoy Nell's first-person narrative. She's a somewhat unreliable narrator, often misunderstanding things, though this case is a definite eye-opener for her. And that's part of why I didn't like this book as well as the previous ones: the chapters alternate between Nell and Pink and an unidentified, but also female, source. There's a reason for having more than one narrator, ****spoiler****Nell's abducted later on in the book**** and Pink did grow on me after an initial dislike, particularly after we learn her secret, but the narrator change did distract from the story.

I also missed the character of Godfrey, who seemed too conveniently missing until his absence was better explained toward the end of the book. Mostly, though, if I'd realized before the very end that Chapel Noir was just part one, I think it would have been another 5-star read. I'd have been less impatient, knowing I had nearly 1000 pages for the threads to all tie together.


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