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The Devlin Diary

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Overview

From the bestselling author of The Rossetti Letter comes a “thrilling” (Library Journal) novel of intrigue, passion, and royal secrets that shifts tantalizingly between Restoration-era London and present-day Cambridge, England.

London, 1672. A vicious killer stalks the court of Charles II, inscribing the victims’ bodies with mysterious markings.Are the murders the random acts of a madman? Or the violent effects of a deeply hidden conspiracy?

...

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The Devlin Diary

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Overview

From the bestselling author of The Rossetti Letter comes a “thrilling” (Library Journal) novel of intrigue, passion, and royal secrets that shifts tantalizingly between Restoration-era London and present-day Cambridge, England.

London, 1672. A vicious killer stalks the court of Charles II, inscribing the victims’ bodies with mysterious markings.Are the murders the random acts of a madman? Or the violent effects of a deeply hidden conspiracy?

Cambridge, 2008. Teaching history at Trinity College is Claire Donovan’s dream come true—until one of her colleagues is found dead on the banks of the River Cam. The only key to the professor’s unsolved murder is the seventeenth-century diary kept by his last research subject, Hannah Devlin, physician to the king’s mistress. Through the arcane collections of Cambridge’s most eminent libraries, Claire and fellow historian Andrew Kent follow the clues Hannah left behind, uncovering secrets of London’s dark past and Cambridge’s murky present and discovering that the events of three hundred years ago still have consequences today. . . .

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Phillips's command of period detail and her sure touch with emotional relationships help make this a standout." — Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Intricate, intriguing, The Devlin Diary is deliciously absorbing. Read it obsessively — it's a story that will wrap you in laughter and tears." — Perri O'Shaughnessy, New York Times bestselling author

"Lyrically written, The Devlin Diary introduces two of the most witty, gifted, and resourceful heroines you will find between the covers of one book." — Stephanie Cowell, author of Marrying Mozart

"This engrossing tale might have been a page turner for me except that I found myself lingering on every fascinating period detail Christi Phillips lavished on this first-class historical mystery." — Anne Easter Smith, author of The King's Grace

Publishers Weekly

Fans of historical romance and traditional whodunits alike will welcome Phillips's second novel, which like her debut, The Rossetti Letter(2007), alternates between past and present. In the present, historian Clare Donovan, who delved into 17th-century Venetian intrigue with handsome Cambridge fellow Andrew Kent in The Rossetti Letter, is now a temporary lecturer at Cambridge's Trinity College, packed with scheming academics roiling in a hotbed of nearly every human frailty imaginable. When dashing and venal Professor Derek Goodman is found slain clutching a page of a coded diary by 17th-century physician Hannah Devlin, Clare and Andrew get on the trails of vicious killers from different centuries. The mysterious death of Charles II's sister, Princess Henriette-Anne, wife of Louis XIV's dissolute brother, propels the main historical narrative. Phillips's command of period detail and her sure touch with emotional relationships help make this a stand-out. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In the fast-paced sequel to The Rossetti Letter, newly minted Ph.D. Claire Donovan is now a temporary lecturer at Cambridge in the same department as historian Andrew Kent, her co-investigator of the Rossetti Letter in Venice. Searching for a new research topic in the depths of the Cambridge Library, Claire stumbles upon the diary of Hannah Devlin, doctor to one of the mistresses of King Charles II. Hannah's entries of 1632 are interspersed with Claire's life in 2008, and the murderer stalking Hannah and the royal court may be linked to today when a fellow historian is found dead on the riverside. Phillips is at her best when retelling Hannah's story; her contemporary plot stumbles with unrealistic faculty interactions, and librarians everywhere will cringe when a key plot point hangs on a librarian releasing patron data. However, the story is highly enjoyable; readers able to suspend disbelief will be in for a thrilling reading experience. An excellent suggestion for the fans of literary historical thrillers like Jennifer Lee Carrell's Interred with Their Bones.
—Jessica Moyer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416527404
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 4/13/2010
  • Pages: 433
  • Sales rank: 371,669
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Christi Phillips is the author of The Rossetti Letter, which has been translated into six foreign languages. Her research combines a few of her favorite things: old books, libraries, and travel. When she’s not rummaging around in an archive or exploring the historic heart of a European city, she lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is at work on her next novel, set in France. Visit www.christi-phillips.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

London, 4 November 1672

She leaves her house on Portsmouth Street carrying a wood box with a smooth ivory handle and tarnished brass fittings. It is late afternoon in early November. The street is deserted and cold, and the sunless ground has sprouted scaly patches of hoarfrost; with each step her pattens crack the thin ice to sink into the mud beneath. At the top of Birch Lane she hoists the box to gain a firmer hold — it is heavy, and she is slight — and the constant dull ache behind her eyes becomes a throbbing pain. She has learnt, to her dismay, that the least occurrence can precipitate a headache: a sudden movement, a sound, even a sight as innocent as a bird's wings fluttering at the periphery of her vision. She considers setting the box down, unhitching its scarred metal latches, and searching its neatly arranged collection of bottles and vials until she finds the one that she desires. It is late, however, and she is in a hurry. She continues walking. The small streets she passes through are little traveled; she encounters only a few others who, like herself, appear anxious to reach their destination. Hers is an alley near Covent Garden, and the dilapidated attic room of a house that was once grand. As she crosses Middlebury Street, her breath appears as puffs of white vapor that linger long after she has gone.

When she reaches the Strand she stops, confronted by a street teeming with people, horses, sheep, and snorting, mud-caked pigs rooting in the gutter. The autumn evening is brief and precious, a time for gathering the last necessaries before going home, and the shops and street vendors are briskly busy. The air is blue with coal smoke, rich with the aromas of roasted meat and onions. Underneath is the ever-present odor of the sewer, a narrow, open gutter in the center of the road, where the pigs scavenge. The morning's storm washed away some of the sewage, but the gutters of London are never completely clean. In between the gnawed bones and bits of offal are orphaned puddles of rainwater that shine like mirrors, reflecting nothing but overcast sky.

She pushes back the hood of her cloak; long locks of unruly dark hair break free. In the crush of scurrying people, the limpid brightness of the paned shop windows, the copper lanterns haloed against the darkening firmament, she senses a feeling of contentment tantalizingly within reach. All Hallows' Eve has just passed. This is her favorite season, or once was. In the chilled gray hour before the November night descends she has always felt a kind of magic. When she was younger she imagined that this feeling was love, or the possibility of love. Now she recognizes it for what it truly is: longing and emptiness.

"Mrs. Devlin." A voice rises above the street noise. "Mrs. Devlin? Is that you?"

"Yes," she replies, recognizing the short, ruddy-faced woman in a cotton bonnet and a thick apron, who pushes through the crowd to reach her. She remembers that the woman is a goodwife to a Navy secretary, remembers that she lives with her husband in St. Giles near the sign of the Ax and Anvil, remembers that the woman's mother had suffered an apoplexy and then a fever. It takes her a moment longer to remember the woman's name. "Mrs. Underhill," she finally says, nodding.

"We never properly thanked you, Mrs. Devlin," Mrs. Underhill says as her flushed face gets even rosier, "seeing as we couldn't pay you."

"Do not trouble yourself. You owe me nothing."

"You're very kind," the goodwife says with a small curtsy and bob of her head. "I tell everyone how good your physick is. My mother's last days were more easy because of you."

She remembers Mrs. Underhill's mother. By the time she was summoned, the elderly woman was as frail as a sparrow, unable to speak, and barely able to move. More than a year has passed, but she suddenly recalls holding the woman's emaciated body as if it were only moments ago. "I'm sorry I could not save her."

"She'd lived a long life, Mrs. Devlin. She was in God's hands, not yours." Mrs. Underhill's words carry a gentle admonishment.

"Of course," she says, closing her eyes for a moment. The pain in her head has grown stronger.

"Are you all right?" Mrs. Underhill asks.

She looks into the goodwife's eyes. They are clear, green, ageless. She briefly considers telling her about the headaches and the sleeplessness. Mrs. Underhill would understand.

"I'm fine," she says.

"That's a funny one, isn't it?" Mrs. Underhill smiles, relieved to be unburdened of the thought that a physician could take ill. "Me asking after a doctor's health. And you with a whole case full of physick," she adds, looking at the wood box. "I suppose you of anyone would know what medicines to take." She peers across the Strand at one of the street vendors. "Pardon my hurry, but I should be on my way. The master must have his oyster supper every Friday."

They take their leave of each other. As she departs the Strand for Covent Garden, a wintry, soot-filled wind strikes her face. The sky is darker now, and the sense of tranquility she momentarily felt has disappeared, as if it never existed. Inside her head, a bouquet of sharp metal flowers takes root and blossoms. The headache is here to stay, for hours, perhaps days. The medicine case bumps hard against her leg. Many times she has thought of purchasing a smaller, lighter one, but she has not done it. She would never admit it, but she believes that the box itself has healing power. She is aware that this is a superstition with no basis in fact; indeed, she has ample evidence to the contrary. The boy she is on her way to see, a seventeen-year-old apprentice stricken with smallpox, will most likely die before the night is over. For days she has followed Dr. Sydenham's protocol, providing cool, moist medicines where others prescribe hot and dry. The physician's radical new method seems to offer a slightly improved chance of a cure, but she knows that only a miracle will save her patient now, and she has long since stopped believing in miracles. The most she can do is ease the boy's suffering. Ease suffering. So she was instructed, but it hardly seems enough. Just once, she would like to place her hand on a fevered cheek and feel it cool, to cradle an infant dying of dysentery and stop its fatal convulsions, to administer medicines that cure rather than placate disease. To heal with her hands, her knowledge, and her empathy. Even a small miracle, she believes, would redeem her.

When she looks up from her ruminations she sees that night has fallen. A coach has stopped at the end of the lane. The bald coachman pulls on the reins, his back still arched, as if he has just brought the horses to a halt. She slows her pace. Something about the coach bothers her, though there's no precise reason for her concern; it's only a common hackney. The door creaks open and a man steps down to the street. He's dressed like a person of quality, but his stance and beefy body are more suited to a tavern brawler. His gaze is so direct it feels both intimate and threatening, as if he knows her and has a personal grievance with her. She is certain she has never seen him before.

She's close enough that he hardly needs to raise his voice when he speaks. "Mrs. Hannah Devlin, daughter of Dr. Briscoe?" he demands. His voice is hard, without finesse, and her first impression is confirmed: he's a brute in expensive clothes. She braces herself, her right hand dipping toward her skirt pocket and the knife concealed there, a weapon she wields with more than ordinary skill. Before her fingers reach the knife she is seized from behind. The ruffian's accomplice wraps his thick arms around her waist and lifts her off the ground so effortlessly that she doesn't have time to think about the strangeness of it all. The first man grabs the medicine case from her and shoves it inside the coach, while the other immediately hoists Hannah through the door after it. She lands on the hard seat facing the back, knocked out of breath. Even if she was able to speak, being confronted with the person who calmly sits across from her would have shocked her into momentary silence.

"Mrs. Devlin," he says. It's both a greeting and a chastisement.

She regards him warily. Lord Arlington, secretary of state, is the king's most trusted minister and the most powerful man in England, after the king. His periwig has more gray in it than she remembers, but his self-important air and the black bandage across his nose, which covers a scar won fighting for Charles I, are the same as ever.

"You carry your father's medicine cabinet," he comments dryly. "How sweet."

Arlington was once a friend of her father's, but that was years ago, before they became enemies. He raps his gold-tipped walking stick on the ceiling and the coach lurches forward.

"Where are you taking me?" Hannah asks.

"To Newgate," he replies, settling back. "You're under arrest."

Copyright © 2009 by Christi Phillips

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Devlin Diary includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Christi Phillips. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Teaching history at Trinity College, Cambridge, is Claire Donovan's dream come true - until one of her colleagues is found dead on the banks of the River Cam. The only key to the professor's unsolved murder is the seventeenth-century diary kept by his last research subject, Hannah Devlin, physician to the king's mistress. As Claire and historian Andrew Kent follow the clues Devlin left behind, they discover the life of an extraordinary woman and a hidden conspiracy involving King Charles II which might still have deadly consequences today.

Questions for Discussion

1. What is your first impression of Claire Donovan? What did you think of Andrew Kent at the beginning of the novel? How did your feelings about these characters change throughout the story? What were major turning points for you?

2. The Devlin Diary has two major settings: the court of Charles II and present-day Trinity College, Cambridge. Each of these places has unique characteristics, yet they share a few similarities. How are these two communities similar and how are they different?

3. Claire Donovan and Hannah Devlin are both strong women in predominantly male cultures. How does each woman approach difficult or delicate situations throughout the book? Compare and contrast Claire's and Hannah's situations and personalities. Which female character did you relate to more? Why?

4. What motivates Hannah Devlin to step beyond the circumscribed role of a respectable woman in seventeenth-century London society? What does Hannah appear to sacrifice by flouting society's conventions?

5. Lord Arlington tells Hannah "You are a woman, after all" and Hannah thinks "A woman, after all. Something inferior to man is his implication - what all men imply when they speak of the 'weaker' sex, the 'gentler' sex, a woman's 'modesty'." (pages 253-254) Do you believe that either Claire or Hannah is a feminist? Why or why not? What does it mean to be a feminist?

6. Many of the characters in this novel harbor secrets from others and many characters are not entirely honest with themselves. Which characters in both the historical and contemporary stories seem straightforward and at ease with themselves and their desires?

7. Ralph Montagu and Edward Strathern , two very different male characters, are attracted to Hannah Devlin. Do the same aspects of Hannah's character attract each man? How did your opinion of each man change during the course of the novel?

8. What is the role of Theophilus Ravenscroft in the novel? Do you believe the author inserted him in the historical story merely to provide some comic relief? Does he have a counterpart in the contemporary story?

9. How is Colbert de Croissy, the French ambassador, different from the English courtiers at King Charles's court? What differences between French and English cultures during the late seventeenth-century do you infer from the novel?

10. How does the author use language and imagery to bring the characters to life? Did the novel's characters or style remind you of another novel in any way?

11. Several characters during the course of the novel seem to have ulterior motives or act oddly. "Odd is simply odd - anyone can see it. Or, at least, most people can see it, if they're paying attention." (page 264) Claire points out that Andrew Kent does not seem to have the ability to notice when someone is acting oddly. Do you believe that women have this innate ability more often then men?

12. Whose story is The Devlin Diary? If you had to pick one, is it Claire's story or is it Hannah's? Why? Who changes the most from the beginning to the end?

13. How did this book touch your life? Did it inspire you to do or learn something new?

Enhance Your Reading Group

1. To visit or learn more about the community in Cambridge visit: http://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/

2. During the reign of Charles II, theatres reopened after having been closed during the protectorship of Oliver Cromwell, Puritanism lost its momentum, and the bawdy "Restoration comedy" became a recognizable genre. In addition, women were allowed to perform on stage for the first time. Some notable plays which your group might enjoy reading include: Charles Sedley's The Mulberry-Garden (1668), George Villiers's The Rehearsal (1671), and John Dryden's Marriage-A-la-Mode (1672).

3. Author William Somerset Maugham once said, "To eat well in England, you should have breakfast three times a day." Nevertheless, your reading group might enjoy a traditional English Sunday roast. This meal includes roast potatoes accompanying a roasted joint of meat such as roast beef, lamb, or chicken and assorted vegetables, themselves generally roasted or boiled and served with gravy.

A Conversation with Christi Phillips

1. Authors often remark that they put a little bit of themselves into their characters. How strongly do you identify with each of your main characters? How are you different?

I do identify with my main characters. I learned something about the failures of medicine and the mysteries of the human body early on, when my oldest brother died from oral cancer at the tender age of twenty-two. Hannah is going through a dark, soul-searching period in her life, to which I can relate. Some of her experiences in the novel are taken directly from my life. Hannah is someone who isn't easily blown off the course she's set for herself, and I would say that is also true for me.

Claire and I share a number of traits; for instance, we're both studious and can spend hours reading and writing. But in a few fundamental ways she's quite different. She's less of a risk-taker than I am, and she is often uneasy around other people, which I rarely am, although at times I can feel awkward and shy, just like everyone else.

I never intended for Claire to be completely likable. I always imagined her as a bit obsessive and neurotic (not that there's anything wrong with that). Sometimes she's unaware of her own motivations, and she doesn't always know how to best negotiate the situations she's in. She's somewhat guileless and not terribly self-controlled. She herself would admit that she's a work-in-progress. To me, these negative attributes are quite common in life, if not fiction. Perfect characters have nothing to learn, and no place (in the dramatic sense) to go. They bore me.

In another way, however, Claire is a kind of alter-ego who allows me to do something I love doing — historical research — and to vicariously live out the fantasy of being an academic. Being almost entirely self-taught, academia — especially the ivy-covered, hallowed-hall sort that Claire inhabits — holds a real fascination for me. After visiting Trinity College and learning about its history degree program, I was convinced that if I had another life to live I would choose to spend it there, getting a doctorate in Early Modern History and spending the rest of my years cloistered in a cozy set. In spite of the many terrible (fictional) things that happen at Trinity College during the course of The Devlin Diary, I found it (and the people therein) absolutely charming. Cambridge is at least as lovely as I have described it. It's the ultimate college town, although residents of Oxford might disagree.

2. Why did you set the book in the place and time that you did?

The Restoration Era — which begins in 1660 and ends in 1685, essentially the reign of Charles II — can be thought of as the 1960s of the seventeenth century. Both eras ushered in sweeping social changes, a blossoming of creativity in the arts and sciences, and greater freedom for women. There was also lots of sex, drinking, drugs, and really, really bad behavior, which makes for great stories.

3. Your novel is tremendously engaging and can easily be read in one sitting. Claire and Hannah go through a whirlwind during the course of the book. Did you work on the book for a long time or finish it very quickly?

In the broad scheme of things, it didn't take long: a little over two years. But there were occasions when it felt like much longer. I have a (completely unproven) theory that the natural limit of the human attention span is nine months. Anything that takes longer than that really begins to feel like work.

4. How was writing this novel a different experience from writing your first book, The Rossetti Letter? What was harder about writing this novel? What was easier?

It was harder from the very beginning. I'd been researching a completely different idea for about six months when I discovered that a novel with a remarkably similar concept was being published, and I had to come up with a new idea. Eventually, when this other book came out, it was quite different than anything I would have written, but I think I made the right choice. Very soon after I began researching it, I felt that my new story was much more intriguing than my original idea.

There were some personal issues that also made The Devlin Diary more difficult. When I had completed about two-thirds of the novel, my father unexpectedly fell ill, and passed away about three weeks later. After he'd been in the hospital for ten days it was clear he wasn't going to pull through, and we took him home to my parents' house. My mother, brother, sister and I took care of him until he died. I found myself doing what Hannah had so often done: trying to ease the suffering of someone who is dying. It was almost as if by writing about such difficult subjects — pain, death, and grief — I had prepared myself for them in some way. But, of course, my father's death was devastating. I didn't begin writing again for at least two months. I couldn't.

It was a great lesson to me. Writing a novel is not just a mental exercise but an emotional journey. Fiction requires conviction, which arises in part from your intellectual belief in your story—but even more than that, I believe, this conviction springs from your emotional investment in your story. Fiction requires a big investment — it simply won't ring true without it. This also helps to explain why writers are so sensitive about their work.

When your personal life is emotionally demanding, it can be difficult to enter the life of your novel. Fortunately my editor read the uncompleted manuscript and made many helpful suggestions. Following her notes, I was able to reenter the story, believe in it again, and find my way to the end.

5. Do you see your book as more of a mystery or a story about two strong women?

I don't put any labels on it. For me, it's a story about Claire and Andrew and Hannah and Edward and Ravenscroft and Montagu and Henriette-Anne.

6. The characters in your novels seem so vibrant - from your protagonists Hannah and Claire to minor characters such as Seamus Murphy and Mr. Pilford. How do you manage to breathe life into such a wide and varied group of characters?

For the historical characters, researching the period is crucial. The more research you do, the more you have to draw upon. Conflict is always key when it comes to character. Whether historical or modern, characters who "breathe" usually want something. They want it very much, and some sort of obstacle keeps them from getting it. From this conflict, all action arises — and characters reveal themselves through their actions.

7. As you relate in your author's note, much of the book is centered on actual history. What was your research process like?

I started with general overviews of English history, so I could understand how the past lead up to the Restoration. Then I read books on the seventeenth century and the Restoration, and numerous biographies of the people of the time — Charles II, Pepys, the Cabal (Charles's ministers), Thomas Sydenham, and many others — and books on seventeenth-century medicine. For The Devlin Diary, I relied primarily on books aimed at a general reader — popular works, not scholarly articles — many of which are listed in the author's note. I also relied on reprints of seventeenth-century works: Aubrey's Lives, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Culpeper's Herbal, The London Spy. I have found that anecdotal history is usually more helpful for creating stories and characters than, say, an academic treatise. To write an historical novel, it's essential to learn about the people: their occupations, their passions, their concerns, as well as what they wear, what they eat, what they admire, what they believe. Restoration London by Liza Picard and 1700: Scenes from London Life by Maureen Waller are two wonderful compilations of the revealing details of everyday life, and they were invaluable.

A sense of place is also very important to me. I went on a two-week research trip to London and Cambridge and toured the sites I would be writing about. I also went to the British Library where I could take a close look at some of the primary sources for the books I'd already read. In the Rare Manuscript room, I examined the Clifford Papers, which includes an early draft of the Secret Treaty and letters exchanged between Charles II and Louis XIV. They're considered so valuable that I was asked to sit at a desk where I could be seen by two librarians, and I was not allowed to leave them alone for any length of time.

I also visited museums for background information. The Old Operating Theatre in London was particularly helpful. It's this wonderful old attic decked out like an apothecary's garret, with alembics, jars of frog tails and bird beaks and so on, adjacent to a Victorian operating theatre. It's called a theatre because it actually is a theatre; it's a small amphitheatre made of wood, with stair-stepped bleachers overlooking the floor upon which stands only one item: the operating table. The table is not very big, about two-and-a-half feet wide by four feet long. It reminded me, rather nauseatingly, of a butcher block table: very thick wood with lots of knife marks in it. Next to the theatre is a lovely display of really gruesome antique surgical instruments.

8. Was it difficult to write the story in two different time periods? Which was easier to write?

The present-day is always easier to write, because I don't need to provide so many details — I can assume that the reader has a basic understanding of the world in which Claire and Andrew live. In fact, if I wrote the modern sections with the same level of detail as the historical sections, people would find it redundant; for instance, if I write "automobile" I don't need to explain that it has four wheels.

9. How did you learn about all the herbs and medicinal substances Hannah uses in the novel?

Two of the first books I read were biographies of scientist and architect Robert Hooke, which included excerpts from his diaries. In them he recorded every ailment he ever suffered from and every medication that he experimented with. Of course none of these "medications" helped him at all, and some of them undoubtedly made him much worse. He was not at all unusual for his time. Many people — intelligent men and women, who were otherwise quite sensible — used many rather hideous substances that we now know have no curative power. My personal faves were "powdered stag's pizzle" and "the stinking fumes of a burnt horse's hoof."

I often consulted two reprints of seventeenth-century medical books: John Hall and his Patients by Joan Lane, and The Admirable Secrets of Physick & Chirurgery by Thomas Palmer, which contained numerous "recipes" and treatments.

10. Did you know how Hannah's story would end when you started writing the novel, or did her fate change as you got deeper into the story?

Even at the very start, when I first begin imaging a novel, I have a sense of how it will end. If I don't have this sense, I know that I don't have a story yet. For Hannah, I didn't know precisely what would happen to her at the end, but I did know the note I wanted to strike. I had an image or two and an accompanying emotion that I worked toward. I wanted it to be something that would linger, something not quite definable, that would make a reader turn back to the beginning of the book, or think about it a few days later.

11. Who is your ideal reader for the book? What do you hope your readers take away from your novel?

I'm the ideal reader. I write about what interests me, and hope that other people will be interested too. I hope people come away feeling that they've gone on a journey — one filled with dramatic situations, memorable characters, and historical interest.

12. What authors do you enjoy reading?

A short list of my favorite historical authors:

Iain Pears David Liss Philip Kerr Rose Tremain Arturo Perez-Reverte Sara Gruen

13. What books influenced you to become a writer?

The books I read as a child had the most influence. I couldn't imagine anything better than being a writer. Still can't.

14. Do you have plans for your next book?

Yes, I'm already working on it. My next novel will be set entirely in the past, in seventeenth-century France.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 47 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 2, 2010

    Intriguing!

    THE DEVLIN DIARY by Christi Phillips is a historical mystery set in 1670's Paris, London 1672 and in modern day Cambridge, 2008. It is well written with depth and detail. It weaves modern day surprises with historical events of the 1670's. It has mystery, suspense, romance, intrigue, royal secrets and the love of Charles II. The characters are absorbing, entertaining and resourceful. This story will enchant you with the historical details and the emotional relationships between the characters present and past. If you enjoy historical intrigue, mystery and suspense you will enjoy this one. This book was received for review and details can be found at My Book Addiction and More and Gallery Books.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    intriguing historical fiction

    Claire Donovan, a visiting history professor at Cambridge University, is in over her head. After helping historian Andrew Kent to uncover a centuries old secret as told in Christi Phillips' previous novel, The Rossetti Letter, she's now at Cambridge upon Andrew's request but instead of enjoying her time in the history-filled campus, she's feeling out of place and abandoned. Awkwardly alone in such an unfamiliar, traditional English environment, it's not until she stumbles upon the diary of one Hannah Devlin that Claire once again finds herself in the midst of what she loves best: unraveling the mysteries of history. Because Claire will soon discover that Hannah is unlike most usual 17th century women. She's a talented physician (which is uncommon in itself) whose experiences in the royal court of Charles II could shed light on a series of brutal murders left unsolved for generations.

    Told from the alternating perspective of Claire and Hannah, The Devlin Diary moves along at a fast clip, yet the more fascinating story by far resides with the woman doctor Hannah. Her experiences are documented with such feeling and detail that I could picture the contrasting filth and splendor of 17th century England. While Claire's lackluster account of her dealings within the backstabbing community of Cambridge failed to ever capture my interest. Which shouldn't come as a surprise as the focus of the novel itself leans very heavily upon Hannah's unfolding story and not so much on the historian Claire. Unsurprisingly, I found myself much more drawn to Hannah and her mystery than I ever did to Claire. I think I might have liked Claire more as a character if I had been able to spend more time with her, but as it was, I didn't. I have however heard many, many good things about The Rossetti Letter - which I know follows Claire much more closely - so I'm thinking my opinion could differ from those who have already had the opportunity to meet and like Claire.

    The Devlin Diary immediately brings to mind a Da Vinci Code-like chase where instead of the clues being found in art, they are discovered in historical documents. Intriguing for any fan of historical fiction to say the least. Although it did seem like every time the story switched back to Claire I found myself constantly pulled out of the adventure due to her misguided attempts at crime-solving. I'm thinking if The Devlin Diary had simply been Hannah's story, without the unimaginative addition of Claire, I would have eaten it up with a spoon (which I did) and then passed it without hesitation to friends.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2010

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    Another Well Written Piece

    I read 'The Rossetti Letter' and was impressed. When I heard that the author had another book, I had to pick it up.

    It was an enjoyable beginning as it seemed to pick up right where 'The Rossetti Letter' left off. The characters, who I met and liked in the first book, were something comfortable to sink into in the new and exciting atmosphere of 'The Devlin Diary.'

    It switches back and forth between the present and the past, which is probably why I managed to rip through this book so fast! At the end of a chapter there is something that I can't wait to understand, to see ... And then the next couple chapters takes place in the present. Lol. It's a great way to keep the reader from putting the book down!!

    I enjoyed the writing style and the descriptions and the realism in the historical chapters. I can't wait to see what she will put out next.

    Read this book, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2010

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    Historical fiction & well crafted mystery!

    I haven't read The Rossetti Letter, so I approached The Devlin Diary as a standalone novel. On its own, The Devlin Diary is a satisfying read.

    The book opens in 1670 in the Palace of Saint-Cloud in Paris at the sickbed of Princess Henriette-Anne, the wife of the Duc d'Orlean, sister-in-law to King Louis XIV of France and sister to King Charles Stuart of England. Princess Henriette-Anne has suddenly fallen sick and is in great pain, it is clear that she is not expected to live much longer. Surrounded by courtiers from France and England, the Princess has little privacy. In her last moments, she calls on an obscure Englishman, Robert Osborne, and it is to him that she whispers her last instructions.

    The book jumps to London in 1672 where we meet Mrs. Hannah Devlin, the widowed daughter of two doctors who practices medicine as a physician and a "physick." Under the laws of the time, the College of Physicians and medical societies exclude women; Mrs. Devlin cannot qualify to practice medicine and risks a criminal charge of practicing medicine without a license. But Mrs. Devlin's practice is limited to poor and common folk with whom she has established a reputation for competence and skill, and she is safe as long as she remains unnoticed. It should be noted that Mrs. Devlin's medical training and skill is impeccable - she's learned from her parents who were both respected doctors. Her father had been physician to the King until a political disagreement caused him to be exiled from Court. Her mother had trained and practiced medicine in France, but upon her marriage was limited to acting as a "physick" and assisting her husband in his medical practice.

    Mrs. Devlin is grabbed off the streets and brought to the King's residence at Whitehall to treat a favorite's suspicious illness. The diagnosis and treatment are within Hannah Devlin's competence, but the politics and intrigue at court may be her downfall. Hannah Devlin parries with Lord Arlington, a powerful man whose stormy relationship with her father threatens Hannah's own safety. Through her work at court, Mrs. Devlin befriends Dr. Edward Strathern who is newly appointed to run the anatomy theater at the College of Physicians. When members of court are murdered in a grisly and disturbing manner, Mrs. Devlin and Dr. Strathern work together to make sense of the killer's clues and to hunt down the murderer before he can kill again.

    The Devlin Diary alternates between the story of Mrs. Devlin in the 1680s and Dr. Claire Donovan at Trinity College, Cambridge in 2008. Soon after solving the mystery behind The Rossetti Letter, Claire Donovan has been offered a prestigious fellowship at Cambridge University. While exploring an arcane collection in one of Cambridge's most eminent libraries, Claire Donovan comes across a slim volume written in code in the 1600s. As Claire deciphers the text, she realizes that she's found an account of unsolved murders during the time of King Charles Stuart. When a fellow historian is murdered, Claire Donovan and Andrew Kent search for links between the recent murder and the mysterious journal.

    Christi Phillips combines historical fiction with a complex and well crafted mystery. If you're fond of unusual mysteries and historical fiction and looking for an engrossing, satisfying read, check out The Devlin Diary. I enjoyed it so much that I've just ordered the earlier novel, The Rossetti Letter.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 27, 2010

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    Bridget's Review

    Claire is a college history teacher. When a fellow teacher turns up dead, she can't help but wonder if this death is connected to a brutal killer from the 1600's. At that time, there was a murderer who would leave strange markings on victims. The answer to this mystery lies in Hannah Devlin's diary. Will they be able to uncover the truth or will these killings continue?

    This is one of those books that as soon as you start reading it, you know instantly that it is going to be added to your favorites list. Everything about this book is intriguing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

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    Fantastic Follow Up!

    The Devlin Diary was great! I really enjoyed the continuation of characters like Claire Donovan and Andrew Kent and the introduction of a historical British story. Set in present day (circa 2008, I think) and the reign of Charles II, the stories again alternate between two strong female leads. Hannah Devlin, a woman who practices medicine even though it's illegal for women to do so, and Claire, who landed a fellowship at Trinity College in England go through things like treating the King's favorite mistress for a STD, having research ideas stolen by other fellows, and everything else along the ride.

    You wouldn't have to read The Rossetti Letter before this one but it wouldn't hurt. There's some background to the present-day characters that's helpful but again, it's not a must-do.

    Overall, a really enjoyable read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2014

    Luna's Secret College Diary: Page Three

    Here is a song. <br> Alone. In the dark. Then the creepy music starts. I look around to see if someones there. Behind me! I yell and scream. But theres no one there to save... Me! I turn to see! Yeah I turn to see whos behind Me! I Yell and Scream! But theres no one here to Save me! ( Song continuses in next res )

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2014

    Why is this book so expnsive

    Why is this book so expensive

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012

    I dont like i hate it

    Hate it sooooooooooooooooooooo much horibble

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2011

    most interesting

    A great read, very interesting.

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  • Posted October 25, 2009

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    Good Read!

    I have really enjoyed reading this book. I love the characters and the writer keeps you in suspense with going between past and present times. I now want to go back and read the Rossetti Letter. I recommend this book.

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  • Posted October 24, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    What A Great Book

    I read the Devlin Diary first, but now I want to go back and read The Rossetti Letter. The plot was easy to follow, the characters were interesting and the mystery totally drew me in. I look forward to reading more by this author.

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  • Posted September 1, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    Easy read but thoroughly entertaining.

    I devoured both this and the predecessor, Rossetti Letter. Moving in time between present and past to reveal the story, Ms. Phillips develops a cast of characters that bring history to life and a delivers a novel you won't want to put down.

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    Enjoyable

    This is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Good characters and historial data. Fast read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2009

    Outstanding Read!!

    The Devlin Diary-- what a lesson in history as well as a novel with intrigue!!

    Your interest is held reading about Hannah Devlin, a young woman trying to be accepted as a doctor in the 1600's where men were readily admired for their craft and women were not taken seriously. History regarding the rulers at that time and the goings on filled with treachery, plots, and devious goings on keeps you turning the pages. To read about Clare Donovan and Andrew Kent trying to decipher the pages of the 17th century diary keep you keenly interested. Christi Phillips has done her homework!! Not only that, but this was a great sequel to The Rosetti Letter which was a wonderful read. Julie Andreopulos

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  • Posted May 19, 2009

    Amazing sequel

    First of all, I should say that I loved The Rossetti Letter. Courtesans, Venice, action, adventure, intrigue, romance.who wouldn't? Following Claire's and Alessandra's adventures in Venice was like sipping a glass of really good champagne - light, refreshing, a little intoxicating, and you never want it to end!

    The Devlin Diary, Phillips' second effort, is more like a strong shot of whiskey. It's a darker novel, more complex than the first but just as un-put-downable, and ultimately a more satisfying read. From its first pages it pulls you into the world of 1672 London - a place of danger, secrets and lies, and 2009 Cambridge, England - which just about rivals the past in treachery.

    Some reviewers have complained that the modern story was lackluster in comparison to the historical part of the novel, but I thought that, just like in The Rossetti Letter, the two interwoven plots were very skillfully done, and the modern-day mystery was clever, engaging, and often funny (not always the laugh-out-loud kind, but there's a subtle wittiness throughout). There's a lot of background information presented in the modern story without which the historical story would be much too complex to understand - and yet this information doesn't feel like wordy exposition; it's interesting in its own right. But then I'll admit to being a Claire and Andrew fan from the first book. Their budding, sometimes awkward and very careful relationship feels right in this context. And clearly, by the end, we know that there's a good chance that Claire and Andrew will become much closer in a future installment. Which, in my view, can't happen too soon!

    To sum up, The Devlin Diary is an excellent summer read and then some.

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  • Posted May 14, 2009

    Like History and Mystery? You'll love the Devlin Diary

    In a nutshell; a wonderful book. Christi Phillips manages to give readers both a scholarly and detailed historical account of life in 17th century England as well as a tautly written and compelling mystery. I found myself dwelling on the interesting historical elements as much if not more, than the story itself. I usually give books about two chapters to prove themselves and The Devlin Diary met that test. I also enjoy any novel where the pace increases each chapter. The Devlin Diary met that test as well but really accelerated about halfway through and clearly `red lined' near its end. The finish was satisfying and I would have read even more than its 448 pages offered.

    The book centers on a 17th century mystery in the King's court in London. There are a series of murders and a real political cover up that occurs and which the characters are trying to resolve. The counterpoint to this story is a present day tale of two scholars in Cambridge England who stumble upon these historical events while investigating a present day murder on their campus. Going back and forth between the two eras is not only interesting, it's fun. Although the book is a stand-alone work, it contemporary story picks up where it left off in Phillip's last book, The Rossetti Letter. So, there is a sense of continuity here that is gratifying. Whereas the Rossetti Letter in 17th century Venice was also a great read, the contemporary story which continues in the Devlin Diary is richer and generally more satisfying and interesting than in the previous book.

    There is an underlying theme is feminism which not only bores but irritates many male readers, myself included, but here it provided an interesting historical contrast and interesting perspective rather than the angry PC tonic many authors ask that we drink and enjoy. While this theme as presented will not be a negative for most men, it certainly will be a plus for most women.

    Both stories are solid and the key characters are well developed. If you are more interested in a great mystery than history, you will be richly rewarded however the accent here is on history. The stories alone are wonderful reading but history buffs will love and linger over the scholarly and fastidious attention to detail and period accuracy. It is evident that there was a lot of solid research here. I look forward to her next book.

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  • Posted May 12, 2009

    Truly enjoyable read...

    You don't have to be an historian to love this book! Christi Phillips so carefully describes every detail...it transports you back in time - from the late 1600's to present day, she will hold your interest on every page. You won't want to put this book down! Reading this wonderful sequel to the Rossetti Letter was a delightful indulgence. Liz Wilson - Laguna Hills, CA

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fans will relish the delightful DEVLIN DIARY while wondering what twofold mystery next will send Clare on the cases.

    In 2008 historian Clare Donovan is exhilarated with attaining her goal; albeit even if the assignment is temporary. She is a history lecturer at Trinity College in Cambridge. Clare plans to enjoy every moment at least in the classroom; as she finds academia filled with backstabbers who make Parliament debates look like preschool squabbles.-----------

    The professors react differently with the news that charismatic Professor Derek Goodman was murdered while grasping in a death grip a page from the encrypted diary of seventeenth century physician Hannah Devlin. As they did with their search for THE ROSSETTI LETTER, Clare and Andrew Kent investigates the death of Goodman only as it connects to the more intriguing baffling death of Princess Henriette-Anne, sister to King Charles II and sister-in-law to King Louis XIV.------------

    Although the overall premise is similar to that of THE ROSSETTI LETTER, the second Donovan-Kent dual investigation is a fresh tale that combines a modern day whodunit with a seventeenth century romantic royal mystery. The two subplots are deep especially the look at the times of Princess Henriette-Anne. Fans will relish the delightful DEVLIN DIARY while wondering what twofold mystery next will send Clare on the cases.------------

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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