Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: January 6, 2015

The World’s Fair is nearing its end, but the danger in Chicago lingers. It's mid-September of 1893 and Eloisa Carstairs is the reigning beauty of Gilded Age Chicago society. To outsiders she appears to have it all. But Eloisa is living with a dark secret. Several months ago, she endured a horrible assault at the hands of Douglass Sloane, heir to one of Chicago's wealthiest families. Fearing the loss of her reputation, Eloisa confided in only one friend. That is, until she meets Detective Sean Ryan at a high-society ball. Sean is on the outskirts of the wealthy Chicago lifestyle. Born into a poor Irish family, becoming a policeman was his best opportunity to ensure his future security. Despite society's restrictions, he is enamored with Eloisa Carstairs. Sean seethes inside at what he knows happened to her, and he will do anything to keep her safe-even if he can never earn her affections.

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My experience with Shelley Gray's Deception on Sable Hill can be summed up in the single word: snoozefest. I know that is blunt and I'm dreadfully sorry, but I'm not known for beating round the bush and I don't intend to start now. I call it like I see it and the second installment of the Chicago World's Fair Mystery series had me sawing logs.

First things first, if you haven't read book one, stop reading this instant and direct your attention to Secrets of Sloane House. I haven't read it, but having jumped into the series at book two I can honestly say that a) I was well aware I'd missed something and b) I was disappointed with how many details of that something were spelled out in the early chapters of the follow-up. If you take nothing else from my comments, please do yourself a favor and tackle these novels as written.

Now I know you're getting a little red in the face thinking I'm unreasonable for giving a two star rating over such a minor frustration and I don't blame you. I'd be thinking the same thing if I were in your shoes, but let me quash your argument here and now because I'm just getting started. My next point of note, Gray's pacing. Deception on Sable Hill is slow. Glacially so. The tension depends on class conflict over societal rules and expectations which might have been nice if I hadn't seen it in a million other novels. This is trite, clichéd, and prosaic situational drama. 

Hold on minute, what about the star-crossed romance between Sean Ryan and Eloisa Carstairs? Forget it, instalove from the beginning. The Society Slasher? Largely absent, and when all is revealed, highly predictable both in motive and identity. The World's Fair? Historically Gray incorporates some interesting details into Deception on Sable Hill, but the setting isn't a central part of the telling. I felt characters flat and marked a distinct lack of cohesion between the various elements of the story. Nothing clashed, but the various story lines didn't complement each other as much as I'd hoped. 

At the end of the day Deception on Sable Hill wasn't my cup of tea. I anticipated most of the plot twists and didn't care for the cast. Stylistically, the novel was too light for my particular tastes and I was overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the lack of creativity I noted in the underlying themes of Sean and Eloisa's story.

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“I know many a hardened man at the precinct who would’ve flinched at the sight of a lovely young lady bleeding on the ground. Violence has a way of preying on a person’s soul, I fear.” He grimaced. “All I can say is that I haven’t become so jaded by my job that I have forgotten about the sanctity of a life.”
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Meg @ A Bookish Affair said...

Ooo, I am in love with this book's cover! So pretty! I am sorry that you found the book so boring. The premise sounded really interesting to me...

Anonymous said...

The cover sucked me in!!! LOL