Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Book Review - The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I have had this book on my "to-read" list for over a year now. I first saw the hardcover in the bookstore and thought it sounded interesting. Being a book lover, mystery fan, and a historical fiction fan, I thought I would really enjoy this book, but I am not sure that I did. I will compare this book to others that are like this one to explain why I liked them more.

The first author that came to mind as I was reading The Thirteenth Tale was P.D. James. Most likely it was the setting that brought one of my favorites to mind, but I believe it was the tone also that had me thinking of books like The Murder Room and Cover Her Face. The main difference here is that with a James book I have to make sure I have several hours to spend, as I can't put her books down. I did not have this problem with The Thirteenth Tale. It was not until the very last couple of chapters that I found myself wanting to keep reading, and that was really to be done and able to move on to my next book.

Another book that came to mind was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which I really enjoyed. I read a review that said the reviewer hadn't liked a book so well since Zafon's, and I realized that indeed, I liked the latter much better. While the general tone of both books is very similar, I did not guess the ending in The Shadow of the Wind, and I found interesting diversions throughout. That is not to say that The Thirteenth Tale doesn't have its own interesting twists and turns, but most of them can be seen coming.

Finally, another reviewer I read compared this book to The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I would agree that the tones are similar, but Kostova has a genuine purpose for the dark undertones in her book; she is writing about vampires. Both heroines have a strange family life with only a father present, and yet Kostova's book seems to have so much more light and hope. Not to mention the fact that there is true horror in The Historian while in Setterfield's book there is only the suggestion of horror which does not pan out in the end.

In short, I found the book The Thirteenth Tale to be an adaquate diversion. I was not enthralled in the storytelling, the mystery was a bit predictable, and the overall depressed feeling of this book made it drag on for me just a bit. Having said that, if this author does write another book it is very likely that I will read it, as I have a feeling that she will improve greatly in time.

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