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The Blackstone Key: A Novel Paperback – August 5, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
This is, to the best of my knowledge, Rose Melikan's first foray into fiction, and she does a good job. Mostly.
This period piece is centered around the Napoleonic war timeframe (although a bit before), and features a fair amount of intrigue. I would say a significant amount of intrigue, but the characters are all pretty transparent. The good guy is obviously the good guy and the bad guy is obviously the bad guy. There is nothing too surprising here.
Others say that it is a well-crafted period piece. I don't know how to take that, honestly. There are no obvious signs of anachronisms, like digital wristwatches, but there are a good number of times where I sat and wondered whether an eighteenth century woman (even near the turn of the century) would sit still for such language, let alone be flattered by the men who use it.
The characters are, otherwise, spot on for their time period, and it is an entertaining enough story, although it is simply amazing that the cryptography on the part of the official gendarmes is so frightfully bad that a young woman with what is described as a child's imagination can discover what trained inspectors cannot. Further, the intuition hinted at on the part of young Mary Finch is sometimes simply eye-crossing in its breaking of the fourth wall.
For the most part, entertaining, although there are certainly egregious flaws in certain places. Recommended only for period buffs. Mystery fans should stay away.
The heroine, Mary Finch, is extremely likable. She is intelligent. She enjoys reading & learning about things that women of her time were not supposed to be interested in. She has an inquisitive nature & is very perceptive, which makes her a good detective. She also has an active imagination, which tends to cause problems for her. I thought her to be very well-developed.
There are two male leads: Captain Holland, of the military & a Mr. Deprez, a former sugar plantation owner from St. Lucia. One man is a little rough around the edges, not having a formal education. He and Mary get along well & have good rapport but with her education & background, they don't have much in common. The other man is a polished gentleman who, like Mary, enjoys literature & poetry. Mary needs help with the mystery surrounding her uncle's property & she puts her trust in both men...but only one is worthy of that trust.
This mystery unfolds well. The main character is, of course, Mary but the author also gives you glimpses into the lives/minds of the other characters. These glimpses tell you just enough to make you think that someone you thought was a bad guy could really be a good guy, or the other way around. Then, later in the story, you'll find yourself changing your mind again. You never really know for certain, until near the end, which is villain.
Thrown into this mystery are well placed scenes of everyday life, humor, & romance. The romance is very sweet & plays out well.Read more ›
The book is set in 1795 in England and the historical portions of the book were very interesting. I enjoyed reading about modes of travel, societal norms and life styles of the period. That part was very good and I would give that portion of the book a 4 star rating.
The story revolves around spying and treason related to ammunitions technology turing the period of conflict between France and England in the late 1700s. This is where the story fell short for me. If you don't already have a good understanding of the war, the entire spy storyline is fairly empty. There wasn't any background given explaining what was going on other than that the two countries were at war. It was difficult to put it in any kind of context if you don't have it going in. The entire spy/encoded documents portion seemed weak and I felt like it was there to move the characters along versus being a story that needed to be told -- it was very contrived. That part of the book is what brings it to a 3 star rating for me.
While I didn't hate it, I didn't like it either. There is a lot of potential with this author, but this whole thing was just a half step off for me. I would read things by Rose Melikan in the future based upon this book, but am not eagerly awaiting the next one.
To sum it up --If you enjoy period literature for the setting and culture, this is probably worth your time. If you enjoy a good mystery/suspense story, I'd pass and spend your time and money elsewhere.
I loved the opening scene in Cambridge amid the madness of the Newmarket races, which is very true to life. The main things I did not like were that the dialogue tended to be more explanation than conversation. The author also uses a third person omniscient narrator and so the switch to that point of view can be really jarring and reads a bit too much like bad Charles Dickens.
I also wish Captain Holland was a bit less 'stiff upper lip'. Mary is a solid character who copes well in what is mainly a tough man's world, though she takes some silly risks and tends to run around a lot unchaperoned, which any woman of quality would have tended not to do. But generally speaking, this was witty and fun if you like good historical fiction with mystery and a dash of romance.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is the first in a trilogy of books by Rose Melikan. The second novel is 'The Counterfeit Guest' and the third 'The Mistaken Wife' just came out in April of 2010. Read morePublished on June 6, 2010 by Barbarino
As in any novel set in this time period, social status can't help but play a big role as Mary Finch travels to the home of her wealthy uncle and hopes for more than what she would... Read morePublished on February 17, 2010 by Maudeen Wachsmith
Here's the basic story. Mary Finch, a schoolteacher at a girl's academy in late 18th century England has recently received a delayed letter from a very estranged uncle requesting a... Read morePublished on October 26, 2009 by Lilly Flora
I am an avid reader of Historical Novels and looked forward to reading The Blackstone Key by Rose Melikan. I was sadly disappointed in this book. Read morePublished on April 23, 2009 by Karen S.
Mary Finch starts a journey to visit her estranged uncle and along the way runs into a mystery. When she gets to her uncle's home, she is upset to learn that he has passed away. Read morePublished on March 30, 2009 by JerseyGirl Yvonne
ISBN 1416560807 - I'd have considered 5 stars for this book, not because it's a superb bit of literature, but because it's a very good bit of what it is - Melikan doesn't... Read morePublished on January 22, 2009 by Anna M. Ligtenberg
I hate to say this, but I was unable to read very much of this novel before rolling my eyes and giving up. Read morePublished on January 15, 2009 by Orianna
Anyone who is a fan of Victorian fiction that combines suspense with a little romance will enjoy this novel by Rose Melikan. Read morePublished on January 8, 2009 by Sasha Q.
This is an elegantly written and ingeniously constructed adventure story set in the late eighteenth century. Read morePublished on December 11, 2008 by Alfred Simpson