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The Devlin Diary

The Devlin Diary

4.2 47
by Christi Phillips

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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


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. . . .

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

Product Details

Gallery Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.46(w) x 8.38(h) x 1.20(d)

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

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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Devlin Diary 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
AAR More than 1 year ago
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.
SeeMichelleRead More than 1 year ago
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.
Callie Cox Bauer More than 1 year ago
A great read, very interesting.
Montreve More than 1 year ago
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.
gl More than 1 year ago
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.
bridget3420 More than 1 year ago
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.
Stacie0408 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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