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by Christi Phillips
Pocket , May 2009
448 pages
ISBN: 1416527397

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A 17th-century mystery remains unsolved, and a present-day professor at Trinity College in Cambridge, England, believes he has the key to the identity of a serial killer with ties to the court of King Charles II.

Hannah Devlin is a physician in London. Unfortunately, in 1672, it's against the law for women to practice medicine, and to avoid prison Hannah finds herself forced into the service of Charles's secretary of state, Lord Arlington. Arlington has brought her to court to treat a malady of the king's favorite mistress, Mademoiselle Louise de Keroualle. While at court, Hannah meets the charming courtier Ralph Montagu and the anatomist Dr. Edward Strathern. Montagu captures Hannah's attention, but when two influential courtiers are brutally murdered, Dr. Strathern draws her into a dangerous investigation, believing that the murders conceal a far-reaching conspiracy that may involve Hannah's late father and the king himself.

At Trinity College, Claire Donovan, with her newly bestowed doctorate in history, takes up a position as a temporary lecturer. When one of her colleagues is found dead, the only key to his murder is a page from a diary kept by his last research subject, Dr Hannah Devlin. Claire and her academic mentor, Dr Andrew Kent, embark on a quest to locate and translate the diary. When they do, they discover that the mysteries of the past have a great influence on the present.

The story alternates between present-day Cambridge and Restoration-era London, and Phillips' attention to detail in both periods is exquisite. Her unique presentation of past and present is a brilliant tool that she utilizes to link the events of 1672 and 2008. Capturing the essence of the language, customs and idiosyncrasies of each caste in 17th-century English society, she paints a comprehensive picture of life in London, from the halls of the aristocracy to the slums of the poor, as well as paying reverent homage to the historical significance of the present-day institutions of higher learning. Having read THE DEVLIN DIARY before its predecessor, THE ROSSETTI LETTER, I found myself a bit surprised by Phillips' storytelling style. But I also found myself quite enthralled, because this is an altogether captivating book.

Reviewed by J.B. Thompson, July 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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