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Sister Mary Murderous

Favorite genres are traditional mystery, police procedurals, espionage, Eurocrime, literary fiction and nonfiction history, especially WW2 and Cold War.  I write about crime fiction at Read Me Deadly (www.readmedeadly.com)

One of the story lines is much stronger than the other

The Steady Running of the Hour - Justin Go

We start off in 2004, when we meet newly-minted college graduate Tristan Campbell, who receives a letter from a London firm of solicitors, telling him that he may be heir to the long-unclaimed fortune of Ashley Walsingham--if only Tristan can prove his blood relationship, and soon. The second story thread is Ashley's; his meeting and crash-bang falling in love with Imogen Soames-Andersson just days before he is to report for combat duty in the trenches of World War I France, and his attempt to climb Mount Everest in 1924.

With only two months before Walsingham's fortune will be defaulted to charitable beneficiaries, Tristan searches desperately through archives, abandoned homes, museums and other sites in London, France, Sweden, Germany and Iceland to find evidence that he is related to Imogen, Walsingham's named beneficiary. Tristan picks up a companion along the way named Mireille, and the quest for a fortune fades in importance as he becomes almost obsessed with finding out the history of Imogen and Ashley.

The strongest part of the book is its descriptions of Ashley Walsingham's arduous experiences in the trenches and then while attempting Everest. Justin Go excels at making the reader feel the cold, wet, stink, repulsion, paralyzing fear and, ultimately, numbness that the front-line soldier experienced. Then he takes our breath away on the bleak, frozen mountain, with winds roaring and the visible world reduced to nothing.

All that atmosphere evaporates when the story switches back to Tristan. I've enjoyed quite a few of those biblio/archival detective stories (like Michael Gruber'sThe Book of Air and Shadows, for example) over the years, so I was particularly interested in reading about Tristan's under-the-gun documentary search all over Europe. It followed some of the standard formula, like picking up a companion along the way to add some romance, but it lacked drama and emotion.

It was hard to get much of a feel for Tristan and his companion, Mireille. They seemed like pale imitations of Ashley and Imogen. The quest itself was lacking for several reasons. Right off the bat, the restrictions that the solicitors put on Tristan seemed dubious. Tristan's searches were haphazard, and dumb luck and happenstance led him to most of his finds.

If your primary interest in the book is because you like literary detective stories, I think you'll find this one may leave you flat. But if you are attracted more by a World War I and Everest adventure/romance novel, then this should be worth your while.


Note: Thanks to the publisher and Amazon's Vine program for an advance reviewing copy of the book.