Release date: 31 May 2022
Book rating: 2/5
Audio narration: 5/5
Audiobook read by: Kate Handford
Synopsis: In this series debut from New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, a modern-day homicide detective finds herself in Victorian Scotland—in an unfamiliar body—with a killer on the loose.
May 20, 2019: Homicide detective Mallory is in Edinburgh to be with her dying grandmother. While out on a jog one evening, Mallory hears a woman in distress. She’s drawn to an alley, where she is attacked and loses consciousness.
May 20, 1869: Housemaid Catriona Mitchell had been enjoying a half-day off, only to be discovered that night in a lane, where she’d been strangled and left for dead . . . exactly one-hundred-and-fifty years before Mallory was strangled in the same spot.
When Mallory wakes up in Catriona's body in 1869, she must put aside her shock and adjust quickly to the reality: life as a housemaid to an undertaker in Victorian Scotland. She soon discovers that her boss, Dr. Gray, also moonlights as a medical examiner and has just taken on an intriguing case, the strangulation of a young man, similar to the attack on herself. Her only hope is that catching the murderer can lead her back to her modern life . . . before it's too late.
Outlander meets The Alienist in Kelley Armstrong's A Rip Through Time, the first book in this utterly compelling series, mixing romance, mystery, and fantasy with thrilling results.
Time travel romance: for me, it is as close to contemporary fantasy as I can get for my preferences and still read about a fantastical world, especially for main characters who travel back to the past and experience a world to which they have never gone, and to where I have or never gone or could never go, either. I have never read Kelley Armstrong’s work before; I saw this book in my meanderings around the digital book world and read the synopsis. I presumed the book would be romance, as the description pitches it to readers as Outlander (very heavy romance) meets The Alienist, so I assumed there would be some attraction between the two main characters, Dr. Gray and Mallory. Armstrong has also written a long backlist of fantasy romance, so I took some clues from those titles as well. Some Goodreads users (about 5, according to the bookshelves) also labeled the book as romance, so I that's what I though I would be reading. A Rip Through Time is NOT a romance. My expectations were high for this one; I really must train myself not to be caught up in book synopsis fervor when the descriptions try to lure potential readers in by comparing books to past, popular favorites. It mostly never ends well, and I really am tired of being disappointed, like I was after finishing this book.
Mallory, the main character who finds herself ripped through time, wakes up in 1869 in the body of a house maid, Catriona Mitchell. The problem is, Catriona is a bad girl, and Mallory has to struggle through not only adjusting herself to the lack of technological practices of the period but also to the fact that the person whose life she has taken over is not exactly a model citizen. Catriona’s unconscious body was found in a seedy part of town before her very gracious employer rescued her from certain demise (which the author comments would be the only aspect of her assault that would have encouraged a police investigation into the event). Mallory’s trip back in time comes with all the usual tropes of time travel: difficulty with terminology; adjusting to archaic practices for hygiene, toilet usage, cleaning, dressing, etc.; navigating a world where the character/traveler may have nearly no rights or civil liberties; and dealing with having to figure out how to get back to the time period of origin for the character. The only drawback is, the narrative commentary Mallory gives readers on the culture is very heavy-handed and distracting, and does not show but tells the reader, which makes for a very dry read.
For our love interest (not really), the medical examiner extraordinaire, Dr. Duncan Gray, is a medically trained doctor making his way in Victorian Edinburgh as a funeral home director with some difficulty, as he is the bastard son of a middle-class white man and a mother who is presumably (the narrative does not make clear and the characters assume) from India. He is a bit of a Holmesian character to Mallory’s Watsonesque assisstant, though the role of detective and doctor are reversed for this dynamic. While the book is not a romance, there is a connection between him and Mallory—she tends to bring out humor and openness in him as the story moves along. Unfortunately, Gray is a bit of a stick-in-the-mud, and his development unfolds through the characters around him and how they interact with him rather than his own actions and words for the most part. I feel, as this is a first in a series, that there perhaps will be more time for readers to get to know him better in future books. I was disappointed that he was not so fleshed out for this one.
As for the plot, it was not hard to follow, but it was a tad convoluted and fell flat. I got bored very easily early on in the story and had to struggle to keep focused. I feel this most likely was from the fact that the history of the period does not feel organically interwoven into the events of the plot; much of the narration done by the main character is history lesson/info dump. Usually, in a good detective novel, there are small hints and clues with an occasional red herring and some false leads thrown in to keep the reader guessing where the story is going and who the killer/culprit is, but I didn’t feel that was so here. Much of the time that could have been spent developing such elements of a mystery plot was used to observe the surroundings and detail their historical significance and give copious amounts of socio-political commentary.
As for the audio narration, Handford is incredibly easy to listen to and was the proverbial spoonful of sugar that made the medicine go down. About 80% of the way through the advance audio copy, there is a repeat of a couple of chapters (34 & 35) from earlier in the book, which I’m sure will be taken out for the published audio copy.
I was pretty hyped to get this book in advance to review. The Alienist is a great detective novel, and I’ve read Outlander (I liked the first one; the rest get progressively more boring as the series moves along), but this book bore hardly any resemblance to The Alienist aside from the fact that there was a serial killer and exactly NO similarity to
Outlander other than the main female character travels through time and the setting is Scotland. Overall, 2/5. Audio narration, 5/5.
Oh, and despite the comment from our MC in the book, not all Americans wear their outside shoes inside the house, and even if they did so, it does not make them “heathens.” Though I do not, I’m sure those who do make up for the practice by regularly cleaning their floors.
My thanks to NetGalley for the advance audio copy, for which I willingly give my own, honest review.