Friday, January 1, 2010

Book 5: Interred with their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell

I found Interred with their Bones in the high school Reading List section of my local public library. Going into that section makes me feel as though I am a bit of a creeper, but if I am blanking on a book choice, they often have some interesting ideas (that reach beyond the expected reading list choices like Jane Eyre and the Chocolate War.

Interred with their Bones
is a work of fiction, taking a whack at a mystery from history. It is stylistically similar to the DaVinci Code, except that it exchanges the works of DaVinci, for the works of Shakespeare.

Kate Stanely,a Harvard educated expert on the occult in Shakespeare, has ditched academia for a life directing Shakespeare's great works on stage. On the evening before the premier of the first play at the Globe, Roz, her mentor from Harvard, arrives at the theater and asks Kate to meet her later in the evening, saying she needs assistance with an important and mysterious task. When Kate goes to meet Roz, the woman is a no show, and Kate notices an ominous glow hanging over the skyline of London. After rushing back to work, Kate discovers that the Globe is on fire, Roz's murdered body has been found inside, and an extremely valuable and rare historical text is now missing.

It is now up to Kate to find the answer to the mystery which Roz died trying to discover. It is a journey that will take Kate to three different countries, and will place her in mortal peril again and again.

I like the idea of pretty much anything that will interest teens in reading or learning. Twilight? Sure, if it makes them actually pick up a book! The DaVinci Code? Why not? There is some (albeit not a lot of) actual art history involved. I was hoping that Interred with their Bones might be such a book, but sadly it is not. The premise is intriguing: a brilliant and brave female progtagonist is searching for what is the essentially the Holy Grail of Shakepearean lore, a surviving copy of Shakespeare's lost play "Cardenio." Along the way she teams up with a strong, and surprisingly sympathetic bodyguard. As they travel and change identities they are followed by a violent lunatic, more people are murdered (all murders mimicking murders from Shakespearean works), and Kate discovers the people she trusts are not always as they seem. It sounds fun, exciting, and vaguely intelligent, and it can be at times, but those times are too few and far between.

I think the biggest problem with Carrell's novel is not Kate's plotline, but instead, the second story she chose to attach. What second plotline, you might ask? Where is there room for a second story? There isn't. The book moves back and forth between the present, and Jacobean times. The plot in Jacobean times does not come up often enough to feel complete or fresh, but rears its ugly head just enough to take the reader out of the mindset of the Kate-story. I understand what Carrell was trying to do, give the book some more serious historical context, but it just feels tacked on and forced, and the sheer number of characters in a story that only comes up every hundred or so pages, leaves it more confusing than enlightening. It makes the pacing of the whole story feel off.

The other major problem I had with Interred with their Bones is that there was no solution to the mystery. Kate races along for over 400 pages searching for an answer, and just as it is within arm's reach it is destroyed forever. I felt like I had totally wasted my time. It is almost as though Carrell was not willing to commit herself to any of the possible answers, just in case she was wrong. But the beauty about a work of fiction, is that you can be wrong, and it is okay.

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