“Sepulchre” by Kate Mosse
As I mentioned previously, there is a time and a place for fluffy reading. I admit to you that I’ve been drawn to it lately because all my other reading is so stiff and academic, but I’m learning that not all fluff is necessarily good fluff.
On the two ends of the fluff spectrum (if you will), there are those marvelous pieces of ridiculousness that smirk at their own fluffiness and, opposite them, there are the dreadfully earnest ones who don’t seem to even be aware of any fluffiness let alone their own. Somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, and unfortunately leaning on the “dreadfully earnest” end, is Sepulchre by Kate Mosse.
The story is divided into two connected stories taking place in the 1890s and 2007, both in various French locations and featuring two relatively spunky young women. The 19th-century maiden is something of a side-show to her brother’s increasingly dangerous life-drama involving the former lover of his current lady while the 21st-century gal is either an academic, a musician, a novelist, or a genealogist and she can’t seem to decide which as she struggles with haunting memories of her birth mother’s insanity. (And, inevitably, they’re both single and ready to mingle!)
Both the stories end up having to do in large part with Tarot and the legends of a great black demon who haunts a particular estate in southern France. (At least it wasn’t the Grail.) Oh, and Claude Debussy is a sort of under-theme/occasional character, too. Because apparently just having the supernatural plot wasn’t enough and Mosse felt the book needed a little celebrity razzle-dazzle.
The book itself is interesting without being gripping and enjoyable without being impressive. The premise appears fairly original (although Mosse did a similar “divided between two eras” story in her previous work, Labyrinth) and the writing had an easy readability to it. The 19th-century sections, oddly, felt more well-researched and believable than their modern-day counterparts. These were bogged down with endless descriptions of locations Mosse clearly visited to research the book and clichéd interpersonal interactions that left me literally banging my head against my wardrobe. The 2007 characters and plot both seemed uninspired and a trifle forced. The only real purpose those sections appeared to serve was to create some suspense for the 1890s plot since readers must get through the intervening modern-day section before discovering what happens next for the 19th-century characters. Also, there was a requisite and utterly listless love scene in the 2007 plot which apparently could not have fit into the 19th century one.
All this is not to say that Sepulchre was a bad book. Hardly. It was a quick and enjoyable read (despite its heft), but it left no lasting impression on me one way or the other (aside from my frustrations with the 2007 plot and the randomness of having Debussy in the book at all). If you’re looking for something like The Da Vinci Code in tone but more intelligent, definitely reach for Kate Mosse. But if you’re looking for realistic character interactions, definitely don’t!