Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source of my copy: From Simon & Schuster for review
Synopsis (from the author's website)
London, 1672. The past twelve years have brought momentous changes: the restoration of the monarchy, a devastating plague and fire. Yet the city remains a teeming, thriving metropolis, energized by the lusty decadence of Charles II’s court and burgeoning scientific inquiry. Although women enjoy greater freedom, they are not allowed to practice medicine, a restriction that physician Hannah Devlin evades by treating patients that most other doctors shun: the city’s poor.
But Hannah has a special knowledge that Secretary of State Lord Arlington desperately needs. At the king’s Machiavellian court, Hannah attracts the attention of two men, charming courtier Ralph Montagu and anatomist Dr. Edward Strathern, as well as the attention of the powerful College of Physicians, which views her work as criminal. When two influential courtiers are found brutally murdered, their bodies inscribed with arcane symbols, Hannah is drawn into a dangerous investigation by Dr. Strathern, who believes the murders conceal a far-reaching conspiracy that may include Hannah’s late father and the king himself.
Cambridge, 2008. Teaching history at Trinity College is Claire Donovan’s dream come true–until one of her colleagues is found dead on the banks of the River Cam. The only key to the professor’s unsolved murder is a seventeenth century diary kept by his last research subject, Hannah Devlin, physician to the king’s mistress. With help from the eclectic collections of Cambridge’s renowned libraries, Claire and historian Andrew Kent follow the clues Devlin left behind, uncovering secrets of London’s dark past and Cambridge’s equally murky present, and discovering that events of three hundred years ago may still have consequences today…
The Devlin Diary is essentially the story of two women. This is one of those books that despite its length, I read the last sentence wishing it went on even though the end is quite satisfying without loose ends. Seamlessly told through parallel story lines, the author takes the reader to Restoration-era London where Hannah Devlin, a female physician, is called upon by Lord Arlington to treat the king's mistress of the clap (aka gonorrhea). She soon finds herself in the middle of court intrigue and investigating a string of gruesome murders. In present day Cambridge, American Claire Donovan is excited to be teaching history at Trinity College until one of her colleagues was found murdered. A clue that was discovered in the pocket of the murdered victim was a page from a diary written by Hannah Devlin. Both Hannah and Claire are strong, likable and well-developed female leads and with both women basically trying to make it in a male dominated world in their respective time period, there is an inherent theme of feminism in the book.
The novel was very well-written and I thought the author did a great job melding fictional characters and real figures from history. The author did provide a page that listed primary historical characters and included a short description of who they were but there were so many secondary characters to keep up with in both story lines that more than once I had to go back and re-read as to who is who again. However, I thought the book well-researched and the author did a good job of keeping the history facts in context to the plot and gave just enough information to keep things interesting (no unnecessary history lessons here!). Actually, after I finished the book, I wanted to find out more about Restoration-era London and spent a bit of time today Google-ing and Wikipedia-ing all the real historical figures mentioned in the book. But despite all that, The Devlin Diary is a murder mystery book more than anything else--the two murder cases that had to be solved (one from the past and the other in the present) kept me guessing until the last few chapters. I highly recommend this very entertaining book as it had pretty much everything: two compelling mysteries, rich historical detail, a little romance (enough to satisfy my romantic heart but it's just a side plot) and great lead characters. 4.75 out of 5 stars
Other book by the author:
FYI: Claire Donovan and Andrew Kent were first introduced in The Rossetti Letter and recurring characters in The Devlin Diaries. Both novels are standalone.