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PaulineMRoss

Pauline's Fantasy Reviews

Reviews of fantasy books, plus some mystery, sci-fi and literary works, and my random thoughts on book-related matters.

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Dragon Queen (The Memory of Flames, #5)
Stephen Deas
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H. Anthe Davis, Erica Dakin

That Summer in Ischia

That Summer in Ischia - Penny Feeny This is a pleasant enough little book. The story is fairly slight - two friends filling a post-university hiatus with a cosy little job in Italy, and the after-effects when things go wrong. There is a bit of a mystery to resolve, but it wouldn't exactly tax the little grey cells of Hercules Poirot.

The characters are OK, without ever being very memorable. There are a few moments when they behave oddly, but on the whole they are believable, if uninteresting. The two settings, Liverpool and Italy, are well drawn and evocative. I know Liverpool quite well and that part certainly rang true, and the Italian parts seemed convincing enough to me too. Mind you, is there really so much street crime in Italy? It seems no one can move without being mugged. I doubt the tourist board will be promoting this book.

The plot was quite creaky in places. When Allie goes to Italy to seek out her father and is instantly accepted by the current generation at the villa where her mother worked, you can almost hear the author's thoughts: hmm, that was too easy, need some conflict there, and perhaps dreaming up the whole business of the withered arm to generate tension. And since the plot needs Allie to meet up with the policeman involved in the case from her mother's time, suddenly she is mugged (of course), hauled off to the police station and sent off for the night to a retired colleague now running a tourist operation. Oh look, it's Enzo. Well gosh, never saw that one coming.

The ending seemed a bit flat to me. The 'mystery' of what happened to Mimmo is resolved by Allie saying: well, I think it must have happened like this. Not that it was a big surprise, of course, I expect everyone worked it out several chapters before, but still, a bit more drama might have helped. And the astonishing reveal about Allie's father - well, huge surprise (not). And then we drift into an epilogue which summarises what happened to everyone, by way of some slightly forced business with old friends. All rather contrived. I don't know anything about the author, but the whole book has the feel of a formula, a sort of 'writing by numbers' effort, with just the right amount of tension here and partial reveal there and a carefully balanced mix of characters.

I don't mean this to sound too harsh. It's a professional piece of work, with no glaring problems, and some parts were excellent - the little descriptive flourishes, for instance, and the two older women, Liddy and Helena, who were the nearest this to fully rounded characters. Jake's story was also well done, cleverly revealed in tiny doses along the way, although, again, some contrivance was needed to get the final stage into the open. It's a perfectly readable book, although I have to confess that I never got totally absorbed in it, finding it all to easy to set aside. Basically, I never cared much about any of the characters, I never got invested in the story and it was almost a relief to get it finished. So that makes it three stars, a competent effort that would pass muster for light holiday reading, especially if you were going to Italy. Or Liverpool, maybe.