Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Serpent Papers

The Serpent Papers
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher!

Barcelona, Summer 2003. Three women are sacrificed to an unknown purpose, skin carved with a cryptic alphabet, tongues cut from their mouths. Sent beautiful, sinister letters - clues, or confessions? - Inspector Fabregat cannot decipher the warnings within. As Barcelona explodes in revelry on the Festival of St Joan, Natalia Hernandez, flower of the National Theatre and Catalan idol, lies broken on the steps of the Cathedral. The city bays for blood, Fabregat chases a shadow-like suspect and signs that whisper of secrets beyond his grasp. Barcelona, Winter 2014. Anna Verco - academic, book thief, savant - unearths letters hidden for centuries from a lightning-struck chapel in Mallorca. What they reveal compels her and Fabregat to reignite the Hernandez investigation. Every page she turns conceals a coded message; every street she treads leads her deeper into the labyrinth. As Fabregat baits her with suspects, and threats darken her steps, Anna hunts her own prey - the book that began it all, a medieval revelation written in the language of witches and alchemists: The Serpent Papers. Anna believes this book will unlock the mystery. She does not yet know she is the key.

Okay, how best to describe this? I loved this, I loved the history, so richly written, embedded throughout the story, everywhere you turn, the breaks in the narrative for the letters and other bits and pieces of information, that add to the story without slowing down the pace. And what a pace it was! Absolutely perfectly paced, with an engaging and smooth narrative sprinkled with, like I said, breaks for other bits of information that help you understand what's going on, give you insights, help paint the background and the history basically! 

I for one, usually read fairly easy crime books, and by easy, I mean easily written, easy to work out what's going on and so on, this was beautifully written and certainly requires all of your concentration, you need to keep up to speed with what's going on if you have any hope of coming up with a suspect of your own. I for one, thought it was someone, and I was wrong, the book was unpredictable and I didn't know what was going to happen next, I didn't know who the killer was, I didn't know who Natalia really was, at one point I did think the worst of her! I loved not knowing where the story was going to go next. It's a very intelligent book, cleverly written, with many different aspects and sides to it, all woven together. 

There was one minor problem I had with the book, and that was that at the beginning I did get a bit confused as the narrative felt a bit disjointed, and I wasn't sure when or where we where, but that was just at the beginning and only one or two times, and I did get used to it and I found the plot too compelling to let it bother me too much! Just a fair warning that it might be hard to get your head around in the beginning. 

I've read books pertaining to alchemy before, but this had a more academic feel to how it was written in the book and inserted in to the storyline, I feel like I'd like to know more about this area of history, but I fear I'm not intelligent enough! I was utterly baffled by the alphabet/code, like I understood the basic principal of it (thanks to the book!) but in practice I was so many shades of "whoa". History I can do easily, reading and so on, but I fail at the more scientific aspects of education! 

I felt like I learned a lot from the book about alchemists and such and that area of history, without the pace of the book being sacrificed nor the plot, it all slotted smoothly in between books, and you got a very broad understanding of the principles and how they related to the murders. I'm unsure if I should actually call the whole alchemy thing history it more legend...or? I don't know, but I was loving it, or the parts I could understand anyway! 

Barcelona is a place I've always wanted to go, the rich setting with it's history and art came alive from the pages of the book, and did nothing to slow my desire to go there in person one day! 

Overall, while I think this book may be a bit of a struggle in the beginning, overall it's so compelling you have no choice but to carry on reading to learn more and find out who the killer is and try to put all the clues and information you have together to try to come to your own conclusion! Rich history, rich setting, a complex plot, and a vivid world, I'm excited to see more from the author! 

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