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Bristol House: A Novel Hardcover – April 4, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Swerling, best known for her City of Dreams quartet, adds a paranormal dimension to her latest novel, interweaving narratives set in contemporary and Tudor London. Commissioned by the Shalom Foundation to unearth some ancient artifacts from the Holy Land, recovering alcoholic and architectural historian Annie Kendall arrives in London determined to resurrect more than her career. After subletting a flat in Bristol House, Annie begins receiving disturbing visits by the ghost of a Carthusian monk. Initially fearing that she is hallucinating, she eventually joins forces with investigative reporter Geoffrey Harris—who coincidentally looks just like the ghost—and together they attempt to solve a present-day mystery that is firmly rooted in the past. Elements of romance, religious mythology, cultism, and the supernatural abound as this genre-blending thriller stretches back and forth through time to a suitably dramatic denouement. --Margaret Flanagan

Review

Praise for Bristol House
 
“An intricately woven plot with voices from the past give Swerling’s latest historical thriller an otherworldly aura.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Swerling adds a paranormal dimension to her latest novel, interweaving narratives set in contemporary and Tudor London. . . . Elements of romance, religious mythology, cultism, and the supernatural abound as this genre-blending thriller stretches back and forth through time to a suitably dramatic denouement.”
—Booklist
 
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (April 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670025933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670025930
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,135,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Denise Crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a complex and intriguing story that blends history and present day with a time-bending element that keeps the reader turning the pages late into the night -- with a computer handy to delve deeper, searching for details to seek further understanding.

Dr. Annie Kendall, a recovering alcoholic and architectural historian, is engaged by the Shalom Foundation and its charismatic leader, Philip Weinraub, to search for Judaica that was thought to be from the time of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and discovered by a man known only as the Jew of Holbern. Her mission will be difficult as in 1530s Tudor England, Henry VIII is on the throne and religious unrest had reached such a point that no Jew would be publicly identified as such.

Soon after she is settled in Bristol House, a beautiful apartment in the heart of Holborn, London, Annie opens the door to a back bedroom and sees a Carthusian monk. This vision, along with the strange black and white mural that covers the entire wall of her new bedroom, sets her on a different investigative path that spans centuries and uncovers a relationship between the past and present day events. While meeting with an archivist from the British Museum, Annie meets Geoffrey Harris who happens to be a dead ringer for the monk who had appeared in her back room! Geoff, a television journalist who focuses his exposes on politicians and other elected officials, is intrigued by the events that have transpired and joins Annie in her pursuit for answers to the mysteries.

The meticulous research by the author is evident and the history fascinating and absorbing. I can't remember the last time I learned so much while reading a novel! I highly recommend it.

Comp copy from the publisher.
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Format: Hardcover
Bristol House, Beverly's Swerling's latest novel, is not your typical "ghost story". The basic plot of the story has already been covered by previous reviewers, but there is so much more to the story than could ever be explained in a simple review. It's a gripping, complex novel of historical fiction, supernatural mystery, romance and intrigue, with hidden codes, and secret murals, plots and sub-plots. Warning: the descriptions of 16th century English torture are not for the squeamish!

The author's character development is exceptional, not only with the main characters of Annie Kendall and Geoff Harris, but also with Geoff's mother, Maggie, a very appealing character with a fascinating history and the eventual key that connects the past and the present; and with Giacomo, the Jew of Holborn, a 16th century character who leads us to the hidden tunnels beneath modern day London. Not every novel works that tries to cover dual time periods, but the author's transitions over 500 years from the present to the past and back again are seamless throughout the book. I often couldn't wait to hear more from the monk who tells his story from his Waiting Place. The author left no stone unturned in her meticulous research on ancient Jewish history and Tudor London. Historical fiction fans will find this book enticing.

And then there are those wonderful maps at the front of the book, of Annie's apartment which is such a central part of the story, and the sections of London where the story occurs. It makes reading Bristol House that much more enjoyable when you can look at the map and follow where the story is taking place.

Bristol House has something to satisfy almost everyone.
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Format: Hardcover
I won't go into the plot in my `review' because many have already done so and/or will. I just wanted to express my opinion.
I really enjoyed this author's "City of..." books and historical fiction is my favorite genre, so when I saw that she had a new book coming out that took place in London (a city I love), I knew I just had to read it. The author certainly does her research, something that I admire. Normally, I do not `just a book by its cover' but I thought the cover was beautiful and got drawn right in from the first few pages. I was hooked!

At first, I thought I would be put off by the supernatural part of the book but (as a Harry Potter fan) I can put aside "reality" and just go with it. In fact, the supernatural part of the book worked for me.

The plot is quite involved, a complex plot, so don't let that put you off. Stick with it and you will not be disappointed. I have read quite a few Tudor historical novels and researched some things online but I still learned things from this historical novel. (a very good thing IMHO)

I look forward to more from this author and while there remains only one book of hers that I have not read YET, I look forward to reading "Shadowbrook", which is sitting impatiently on my TBR shelf right now.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I guess it's just not my kind of story. Don't get me wrong, I think Beverly Swerling is a fabulous writer. I read her City of... series and was absolutely enthralled. I sincerely found it difficult to put those books down. She is a master of research and a great storyteller. For me, Bristol House was like that bottle rocket that just fizzles on the launch pad, and I think it mostly had to do with the religious elements of the story. If you're into ancient Christian and Jewish faith, spooks, and heroic, insecure women, this might be the one for you. Of course my opinion comes at the cost of being completely unworldly, and a tendency to giggle at things that rely on faith under any name. I did like the descriptions of the old London tunnels and code deciphering of World War II, though I'm not yet sure if these were factual or not.

When I wrote the above I still had about a chapter left to read. It was in the book's Afterword that I found the tunnels in London are real, and I plan to follow the link provided by Beverly Swerling to find out more. Thank you. Also, I did like the happy ending. Thanks again, Beverly. It's kind of a crap shoot since the mid-1970s whether a book/movie is going to end the way you want it to.
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