I am miles behind on reviews, miles. As I write this review on 3 May, I have five other books I’ve yet to review. I keep telling myself that I’ve been a bad blogger because I haven’t had any time to read, but this is demonstrably untrue. I’ve been reading like mad and just not getting time to write the reviews. I read The Night Villa weeks ago, and in fact wrote a review of it, but WordPress glitched and I lost the review. And then I was too discouraged to write it over again. Let that be my excuse.
Carol Goodman has been on my radar for several years now, ever since Eva mentioned her in my first ever RIP Challenge. She appears to write books in the vein of Barbara Michaels / Elizabeth Peters — slightly fluffy, slightly gothic mysteries populated by people researching the Spooky Past. The Night Villa follows the archaeological adventures of classics professor Sophie Chase as she studies the fate of a slave girl, Iusta, in the village of Herculaneum, one of the towns destroyed by Vesuvius. There is also a Pythagorean cult. Basically lots of things I love.
Why I read the end: I suspected I knew who the villain was, and I wanted to see if I was correct. (I was.)
I had a few problems with the book, mostly arising from the mental comparisons I was making to Elizabeth Peters who — say what you will about her — always has a sense of humor and entertaining male leads. That wasn’t so much the case here, and I couldn’t understand why Sophie was interested in any of the people she was interested in. Overall, though, it was a fun read. I love a good research mystery. Any book where somebody urgently needs to get to a library and do urgent research for high stakes is a book I will not wholly shut my heart against. (Well, almost any book. I shouldn’t make sweeping pronouncements, it’s like begging the universe to prove me wrong.)
I just had one big complaint, and it cast a larger shadow on my reading of the book than you might expect. My big complaint with The Night Villa is that it features large sections of a Latin narrative by fictional Roman writer Phineas Aulus, and the narrative sounds nothing like Latin. I’m not having a go at Carol Goodman for ignorance; she obviously knows plenty about classical antiquity. But the Latin narrative didn’t sound like Latin. It sounded like English. Goodman handwaves this by having her characters say they’ve never read a Latin text that was so intimate and conversational, but that didn’t appease me because the sentences and the dialogue and everything, they just didn’t sound like they had ever been Latin. What she should have done is written those sections in Latin, left them in a drawer for three months, and then translated them back into English. That way there would have been Latin syntax mixed in there at some point.
Obviously this doesn’t matter to the story, and a Latin-sounding text might have been less fun to read. But whenever I was reading the “translated” sections of the Phineas Aulus text, I was maddened by the unLatiny way they carried on. I shall read more Carol Goodman soon though! Arcadia Falls maybe. It features a boarding school. Boarding school research mystery. With fairy tales!
Tell me if I miss yours!