Phil Rickman 2012; The John Dee Papers #2
In this 2nd book in the John Dee Papers series, Dr. Dee is in a bit of a sticky wicket after rashly telling Queen Elizabeth I that of COURSE he has a scrying stone. Sure, he can show it to her some time.
Dr. Dee now needs to get his hands on a stone. A journey must be undertaken, which is handy since Robert Cecil has “requested” that John make himself scarce to avoid fulfilling the Queen’s request to advise on a propitious date for an event (possibly a wedding).
Robert Dudley, the Queen’s Master of the Horse, tags along for the ride, and the two of them head to the Welsh border and the town where Dr. Dee’s father lived, in search of a stone that is rumored to be for sale. They have an adventure populated with the whisper of ghosts and the threat of curses.
I found myself getting lost in a couple of plot points, as have a couple of other reviewers, but I’ve found that Rickman’s oblique and nonlinear writing style is best experienced as an observer rather than an analyst: soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the scenery, relish the quirkiness of the characters, and then watch as the true plotline comes into focus.
I was sad to learn that there are only two books in this series. I’m giving this book four stars for the clever plot, four stars for the finely drawn characters, and five stars for the beautifully crafted world.
Had you asked me a year ago what I thought of Sean Barrett as a narrator, I would have said his narration distracted the reader from the story – and not in a good way (see my review of December). I’ve listened to at least two more of his books now, though, since little will keep me from a trip into the shadowed world of Phil Rickman, and my opinion has changed for the better. I’m glad I kept listening.