The Devlin Diary
Simon & Schuster
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". . . a little dazzle around true historical events and characters."
I call fast paced novels with enough intrigue to sustain me during long unbearable flights “airplane food.” Christi Phillips’ romantic mystery, The Devlin Diary, is a satisfying quick fix for a booklover who likes a little dazzle around historical events and characters.
In juxtaposed narratives, two brilliant professional women—separated by four hundred years—set out to solve a murder tied to factual events: The May 1670 secret treaty between Charles Stuart, king of England, and Louis XIV, king of France, and the death of Henriette-Anne, Charles’ sister and Louis’ sister-in-law.
In 1672 Hanna Devlin was given a choice by one of the king’s ministers: either she could secretly treat the king’s mistress’ venereal disease or Hanna could go to prison, as a woman practicing medicine without a license is a punishable crime. In her diary Hanna writes of the power struggles within the king’s court, religious conflicts and a murder cover-up.
Centuries later Claire Donavan, an American historian hired for a semester to teach at Cambridge’s Trinity College, discovers the diary among the college’s library collections. Unfortunately Hanna wrote her diary in code.
Claire seeks help decoding the book from Derek Goodman, a seventeenth-century faculty historian. He turns out to be a scoundrel. Later he is murdered and the original diary is stolen from the library. With the help of Andrew Kent, another faculty member, Claire finds the missing pages and is able to translate Hanna’s story.
Hanna discovers her father’s death the year before was not a random killing by a thief. Edward Strathern, an anatomist, identifies similar symbolic cuts on the bodies of four men, including Hanna’s father. He was the king’s physician at the time, and everyone in the room when Henriette-Anne died was marked similarly. What secret did they share?
Determined to bring the killer to justice, Hanna and Edward embark on their own investigation. Back in contemporary Cambridge, Claire and Ken also search for Derek’s killer. Of course, romance develops between the two sleuthing couples.
The backbone of the novel is Phillips’ historical information on court life, English and French politics, the study of medicine, and the historical connection between Trinity College and Cambridge. The story’s pace and easy narrative style kept me interested and anxious to discover how the treaty was connected to the death of the princess.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla