Katharine McMahon’s books are quite difficult to get in Australia- very few stores seem to stock them. I was introduced to this author after seeing Confinement on the shelves at Borders in Singapore, misread the blurb (I thought it was about a hospital- ‘health’ but it was about a school ‘heath’) but really enjoyed it even though not a great deal was resolved by the end of the book. So when I started The Crimson Rooms, I really didn’t know whether it would be in the same vein or not. The short answer is yes- things seem resolved in some respects, but not in others. It could be a case of too many different plots or a trait of this author’s writing.
This book opens with Evelyn Gifford, the main character, opening her door one night to find a woman and boy standing there. The woman, Meredith, claims that Edmund is her dead brother’s son. Is she telling the truth? James died in the war (WWI) and the house has remained on tenterhooks ever since.
Evelyn is also one of the first women to graduate with a law degree and is currently working with Mr Breen and co. Recently she has undertaken her first case- reunite a woman with her children. Then her boss asks her to become involved in a murder case, which finds Evelyn investigating and finding that everything is not as it seems. To top it off, there’s a romance.
The ideas covered in the book were interesting, but I felt that there was too many plots to do justice to each. Meredith’s character floats in and out as she pleases and the ‘shocking truth’ is revealed too early in my book and then simply accepted. The love affair is potentially superfluous. The murder mystery was the most interesting and the best completed plot. While Evelyn’s championing of careers for women is important, it is too often relegated to a back role.
Will I read another book by this author? Actually, I’ve got another one on the way. They are very well written, true to time and place but I’m hoping that the next book I read (The Rose of Sebastopol) doesn’t make me think ‘so what actually happened?’
7.5 out of 10.