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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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
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
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.
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 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 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.
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 always entirely 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 to go in the dramatic sense. 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, I’m fascinated by academia—especially the ivy-covered, hallowed-hall sort that Claire inhabits. 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 there 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 through 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 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. 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 isn’t 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 rediscover my belief in the story 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, Andrew, Hannah, Edward, Ravenscroft, Montagu, Charles II 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 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.
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 watched over by two librarians.
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 dried frog legs 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, because only the unfortunate patient’s torso was situated on the table; his or her limbs were held by the surgeon’s assistants. The operating table reminded me, rather nauseatingly, of a butcher block table. 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.
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, and there were a great many of both. 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 a wide variety of substances that we now know have no curative power. What’s fascinating is that they didn’t figure it out then, even though they would continue to be unwell after ingesting these supposed remedies. My personal faves were “powdered stag’s pizzel” 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 imagining 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, but I did know the note I wanted to strike. I had an image or two and an accompanying emotion that I worked toward.
11. Who is your ideal reader for the book? What do you hope they 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, Sarah Dunant.
13. What books influenced you to become a writer?
The books I read as a child had the most influence. As a child, 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
A great read, very interesting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I enjoyed this one much more than the rosetti letter. I found it easier to get to know the main charector and to bond with her. Well worth the read.
This is the second book by this author. I read the first over Christmas break and could not wait to read the second. She writes historical fiction mixed with modern day fiction. So the book follows a historian, Claire Donovan, who is trying to solve old mysteries, and characters of the mystery Claire is solving. The back and forth is not confusing, but instead draws the reader deeper into the story. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to get transported to a different time for a while.
Imagine a time where women have finally gained some freedoms - some, not all. Many restrictions have been lifted from them except the ability to practice medicine. Now picture yourself as an intelligent woman, versed in medicine, desperate to treat the poor who pass you every day in various stages of sickness and there isn't a single thing you can do about it. This is the situation Hannah Devlin faces. Of course, she practices her medicine earlier although the discovery of which can have criminal consequences for Hannah. Drawn into a world of intrigue and conspiracy, Hannah struggles to survive and uncover the mystery behind a series of grisly murders.Fastforward to present(ish) day. Claire Donovan is a history teacher at Trinity College. When a fellow professor ends up dead, it is Hannah Devlin's diary that may hold the key to his death. Could the darkness of the past jump forward into the present?Christi Phillips writes an interesting story jam packed with intrigue. In THE DEVLIN DIARY, secrets abound and it's anybody's guess how the various investigations will turn out. The story is written using parallel story lines; the reader is first introduced to Hannah and her life before Claire enters the story. Although I'm not a huge fan of parallel shorelines, one good thing about this is that the author was able to use this to her advantage to keep us totally hooked. Just as we'd get to a point with Hannah where she made some awesome discovery, we'd switch over to Claire. The same held true the other way. Just as the lightbulb was about to go on above Claire's head, we'd be tugged back to Hannah's time. This aspect was masterfully done to the point where I continued reading the story despite the parallel nature of it.The couple points that I couldn't really get into were Claire's relationship with Andrew and Claire herself. Both seemed like they were added to the story to round it out, although the relationship just felt kind of so-so and Claire wasn't nearly as interesting as Hannah. Perhaps it's the difference in how interesting the two time periods were, I'm unsure. If the book were solely about Hannah I think I would have become much more engrossed in it.Overall THE DEVLIN DIARY was a great read. Fan of historical thrillers will find something to love here. Although this does come after The Rossetti Letter, I didn't really feel like I was missing much by not having read that book. I think THE DEVLIN DIARY does a fine job of standing on its own.
1672: Hannah is a woman in a man's profession. 2008: Claire is an American at a British College. What brings their lives together? Murder.Hannah, a woman physician (rare for 1672), is forced to come to court to treat the mistress of the king, but her involvement is only the beginning. She has become tangled in something much bigger than she realizes. Claire arrives at Trinity College and becomes the talk of the college when a colleugue is found dead. A man she was seen with hours before he turn up dead. How does Hannah play a role after 300+ years?Interesting story, historical on some points but complete fiction, still a fun read! It was a page turner that kept me wondering how it was going to all come together. A nice little love story (or two) also made it fun. Two stories in one! 4 stars...
I admit it ... I have a weakness for historical fiction. As a matter of fact, as I FIRST started reading this book, I was saying to myself, "I really could do without the modern-day flash forwards; just let me keep reading about Hannah Devlin." And then, of course, there's the obligatory "will they or won't they? They probably will ... " between Claire and Andrew.But the book quickly pulled me in ... and I was up at 3:30 A.M. forcing myself to close the pages and finish reading it the next day.If you find yourself fascinated when reading accounts of how life was "way back when" and finding out that scandals and debauchery are not modern phenomena, you'll like this book. If you like tales of discovery and of being an 'outsider' in a world that really doesn't seem to strive to include you (Claire is living and teaching in a 'man's world' in a traditional and rather stodgy environment), you'll like this book. If you just plain like a book that makes the scenes you are reading come alive in your mind, you'll really like this book. This is a book about two very strong women, but it's not only a book FOR women; it's for everyone to enjoy.
Call me an Anglophile, but I love historical fiction set anywhere in the British Isles. So when I was offered the opportunity to read and review Christi Phillips new novel, THE DEVLIN DIARY, I jumped at the chance ¿ and I¿m glad I did! Remember that old commercial for Certs breath mints ¿ ¿two, two, two mints in one!¿ Well, with THE DEVLIN DIARY, you get two, two, two books in one!The first story, the historical one, is set in Restoration England. I haven¿t read much about the reign of King Charles II, so it was fun to delve into some new-to-me history. I liked the main character, Hannah, immediately. She is an intelligent and knowledgeable woman living in a time when even those privileged few with access to the best education are hobbled by the limitations of contemporary scientific, philosophical, sociological, and religious thought. To work as a physician, Hannah must struggle against a tide of sexism and superstition.The second story, that of Claire Donovan, is set in present day Cambridge at Trinity College. Maybe not surprisingly, she too is faced with an abundance of sexism as she settles in as a temporary lecturer amongst the almost all male faculty. Claire¿s character was introduced in the author¿s first novel, THE ROSSETTI LETTER, in which she meets historian Andrew Kent while conducting research in Italy for her PhD dissertation on the life of a Venetian courtesan. It is through that relationship that she lands such a coveted appointment at the prestigious and exclusive Trinity College. Unfortunately, the character of Claire always seems to be a bit out of her element. Granted, she's an American trying to fit in among the British (and that makes for some funny scenes and dialogue). However, for a research historian with a PhD under her belt, she comes across as a bit dense and, basically, often seems to be in over her head. She is likable, though -- perhaps she just needs more real-life experience. (Did I just say that about a fictional character?)I do wish that I¿d read THE ROSSETTI LETTER first. Don¿t get me wrong, THE DEVLIN DIARY can be read as a stand alone novel, but I would have enjoyed ¿getting to know¿ Claire Donovan through reading about her experiences in that first case rather than being ¿brought up to date¿ in her second. I think that when I do read the first novel (and I will!), I¿ll miss some of the fun of discovery. If you haven¿t already read THE ROSSETTI LETTER, and if you have any inclination to do so, I would definitely recommend that you read that book first.All in all, THE DEVLIN DIARY is a wonderful read. There¿s plenty of interesting period detail worked skillfully into the narrative of the historical sections. The scenes are vividly drawn and atmospheric - you won¿t forget that the narrow little streets are either cobblestone or mud! The murder mystery aspects are compellingly intricate, and the characters engaging and complex. While I somewhat preferred the historical sections of the novel over the present day sections, I'm looking forward to whatever intrigue Claire Donovan stumbles upon next!
A serial killer in 1670s England, stalking the court of Charles II. The murder of a history fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. How are they related? Are they related?That¿s what Claire Donovan is trying to find out. Claire, the heroine of Phillips¿ first novel, The Rossetti Letter, is trying to fit in at Trinity ¿ not an easy task for a female American who isn¿t a full fellow. Even worse after she punches a colleague in the face ¿ and he turns up dead the next day. Something in Derek Goodman¿s research revealed a secret that someone didn¿t want made public ¿ a secret they were willing to kill to keep secret. And the clues reside in a 350 year old diary written in some sort of code.I didn¿t read the Rossetti Letter before reading The Devlin Diary. That¿s not really a problem ¿ the story stands on it¿s own. There are a few potential spoilers though, so be warned. And you will want to read The Rossetti Letter by the time you finish The Devlin Diary.I¿ve read a lot of thrillers lately that really sucked me in, and pulled me along. The pacing in those books was frantic. The Devlin Diary is different; I really didn¿t feel pulled along, there wasn¿t a real sense of urgency. There were cliffhangers, but they didn¿t keep me up all night. This book didn¿t pull me so much as it enticed me. I got very curious about how things were going to progress, both in the 1672 mystery and the modern day mystery.I think that¿s what I loved the most with this book. You¿re really solving several murders, most of which took place 350 years in the past. We¿re following two strong women who are in positions where many people resent their strength. Claire Donovan and Hannah Devlin are so much alike that it¿s eerie ¿ for a moment, I was wondering if this was going to turn into a reincarnation/mystical bond type thing between the two, but it (thankfully) didn¿t.This is not a short book, weighing in at 427 pages before the author¿s notes. It¿s an engaging read, though, that will leave you hungry for more. You¿ll learn about Restoration England ¿ probably more than you thought you needed to. I know I¿m taking a second look at another book I started and put back about the relationship between England and France throughout the years. But most importantly, you will be entertained, without feeling as if you¿ve been on a rollercoaster ride. Those are fun, too, but diversity is also nice.Of course, now I have to read The Rossetti Letter.
Synopsis (adapted from publisher): London, 1672. The past twelve years have brought momentous changes: the restoration of the monarchy, a devastating plague and fire. Yet the city remains a teeming, thriving metropolis, energized by the lusty decadence of Charles II's court and burgeoning scientific inquiry. Although women enjoy greater freedom, they are not allowed to practice medicine, a restriction that physician Hannah Devlin evades by treating patients that most other doctors shun: the city's poor. Cambridge, 2008. Teaching history at Trinity College is Claire Donovan's dream come true -- until someone is found dead on the banks of the River Cam. The only key to the unsolved murder is a seventeenth century diary kept by his last research subject, Hannah Devlin, physician to the king's mistress. With help from the eclectic collections of Cambridge's renowned libraries, Claire and historian Andrew Kent follow the clues Devlin left behind, uncovering secrets of London's dark past and Cambridge's equally murky present, and discovering that events of three hundred years ago may still have consequences today.Review: The Devlin Diary is told in the same manner as The Rossetti Letter: it alternates between Claire's modern life and Hannah Devlin's life in the 1600's. I loved both stories, although I was slightly more interested in the modern tale than the ancient one. Looking at the research through Claire's eyes provided more insight into a time I know very little about. Hannah Devlin is an extraordinary character, but I can't imagine befriending her even if we lived at the same time. Still, her story is remarkable, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Once again, with so many characters, I frequently used the handy list of historic characters.
A vicious killer stalks the court of Charles II in 1672 London, inscribing his victims' bodies with mysterious markings. In present day Cambridge, England, a Trinity College history professor is found dead with the torn page of a 17th century diary in his hand. His death appears to be an accident, but the college's newest Fellow Claire Donovan and historian Andrew Kent suspect otherwise. The dead professor's last research subject was Hannah Devlin, a physician to the king's mistress and the keeper of a diary that holds the key to a series of unsolved murders in 1670s London. Now Claire and Andrew must follow the clues Hannah left behind, unearthing secrets of the past and present from the library archives. Book 3 in the Clare Donovan series is being planned. If you like Lauren Willig, you'll love Christie Phillips. Highly recommend.
I have mixed feelings about this engaging book that features two Cambridge historians investigating parallel mysteries today and 300 years in the past. The writing is crisp though I did find the use of the present tense for the historical portions rather jarring. Claire and Andrew seem like engaging characters, but the focus of the book is clearly Hannah and Edward in Restoration England.It was definitely the historical portions of the novel that hooked me as a reader- the characters and Restoration London itself were well-drawn and the mystery was riveting. Though I enjoyed the interactions between Claire and Andrew, the modern day mystery seemed like an afterthought at best, and the solution had a deus-ex-machina quality that I found unappealing. Regardless, I truly enjoyed the book, and will be looking to read Phillips first installment, "The Rossetti Letter". Strong 4 stars.
Synopsis: London, 1672. A vicious killer stalks the court of Charles II, inscribing his victims' bodies with mysterious markings. Are the murders the random acts of a madman? Or the consequences of a deeply hidden conspiracy? Cambridge, 2008. Teaching history at Trinity College is Clari 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 kings mistress. Through the arcane collections of cambridge's most eminent libraries, Claire and historian Andrew Kent follow the clues Devlin left behind, uncovering the secrets of London's dark past and Cambridge's equally murky present, and discovering that events of three hundred years ago may still have consequences today....I have to begin by saying that I'm horrible at writing reviews and it frustrates me so much, especially for a book that i thoroughly enjoyed! I start writing , delete it, write again, delete it again.....I really enjoyed reading this. The author is very descriptive, for example, she describes the Wren Library which after reading the page i wished so much i could go there - "Massive dark oak bookcases arranged in thirteen bays lined the long walls of the large, rectangular space. Above the bookcases, a procession of tall, arched windows rose up to the thirty-seven foot coffered ceiling. In the wide center isle, black and white marble tiles set in a diamond pattern led the eye to the southern end, where a white marble statue of alumnus Lord Byron posted poetically below a stained- glass window." I could vividly visualize Claire marveling at the site.The story has 2 parallel's - London , 1672 a serial killer is on the loose. The victims are stabbed with unusual carvings on the body and fingers are cut off. Hannah Devlin, along with Dr Strathern are on a mission to find the killer.In modern day, Claire Donovan is just starting her new job as a lecturer at Trinity College when one of the prestige fellows Derek Goodman, is found dead at the side of the River Cam. When Claire finds out that Derek Goodman was writing a book on the same subject she is writing her dissertation, she is shocked. Claire needs to find the diary Derek took and when her and Andrew Kent find it, they come across some interesting information about Hannah Devlin and the murders. Did the murders in 1672 have something to do with Goodmans death?The author did a lot of research for this book, research about King Charles and the treaty between England and France and his secrets! I don't usually read historical novels but this one had a twist and it was very interesting. I highly recommend it!
The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips is a classic who-done-it of the first order that will have you eagerly turning pages. The Devlin Diary is written by Hannah Devlin, a physician at a time when women physicians were scarce. Her diary leaves clues as to a series of vicious murders that took place in the year 1672. We alternate the story of the diary with Claire Donovan and Andrew Kent, modern day professors who have their own reasons for wanting to solve the mystery of the diary. The story takes place in both Restoration-era London and present-day Cambridge. Just when you are comfortable in one era you are whiz-banged to the other, so it pays to stay on your toes with this story. There is a liberal dose of humor in this story as Claire is a new and temporary professor and is learning the ropes of the college while trying to figure out where she stands in regards to her relationship with the standoffish Professor Kent. The story can¿t help but pick up steam as both sets of stories twist together in a sizzler of a conclusion. The mystery will be solved by using Cambridge¿s eminent libraries. I loved the history of this story and the fact that it is wrapped around a love story the whole time Claire Donovan is getting her love life started. The mystery of the multiple murders alone was intriguing enough to give the story a second read. The Devlin Diary is fast paced and full of twists. It is not stuffy or dry or arcane even though the subject matter it deals with is ancient. This book is very deserving of attention and cries out to be read and enjoyed. It is not what you think it is. Get prepared for a delectable thrill ride. I give this a hearty thumbs up and recommend this story for teenagers on up.
An absorbing mixture of mystery, history and romance, The Devlin Diary proved to be one of my favorite books of the year. There are two interconnected stories here, one set in London in 1672, involving a woman doctor dealing with a series of grisly murders at the court of Charles II. The other story focuses on a female American history lecturer at Cambridge University in modern times, who investigates the murder of a colleague. As an Anglophile, I relished the author¿s detailed, atmospheric depiction of the locales. Characters are very successfully developed as well, with a large cast that has few stereotypes. Transitions between the two stories, which could be awkward in less skilled hands, are smooth, with the parallel plots moving simultaneously towards the identification of the killers. There are enough historical details in the 1672 story to make for what my mother used to call ¿sugar coated history,¿ and, thankfully, Ms. Phillips adds a note at the end to indicate what is fact and what is fiction. I¿ll leave it to those better qualified to comment on the accuracy of the historical touches, but I¿ll say that nothing jumped out to me as implausible.This is the second book that Christi Phillips has written with the same (modern) heroine, the first being The Rossetti Letter, which, on the strength of this book, I have ordered. Recommended.
This, the second novel featuring Historian Claire Donovan, is a real page turner. Claire arrives to a new lecturing job at Trinity College Cambridge and unearths the diary of Hannah Devlin, a 17th Century physician. The stories of Hannah in the 17th Century and Claire in the 20th unfold with murder, intrigue and romance featuring in both. The plots and characters are very well developed and I found this novel to be a little better at grabbing my interest than the Rossetti Letters. Very well worth a read.
I loved the Rossetti Letter and thus have been waiting quite a while for this book to come out. I think that anyone reading this does need to read Rossetti first as there is more development of the modern day characters of Claire and Andrew that are missing in the second book. Without knowing the characters from the first book, Claire and Andrew will seem too flat in Devlin. That being said, I really enjoyed the new mystery and characters of Hannah and Edward. I wonder if these characters (or others from the book) will continue on in the third book as Claire is researching them for her scholarly book in modern times. I had a difficult time figuring out the Resoration mystery, but the modern half of the modern day one was very obvious.
I seem to be on a 17th-century streak. First it was The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, then it was The Long Shadow¿ and now it¿s The Devlin Diary, by Christi Phillips.The story operates in a split time narrative. One strand of the story follows that of Hannah Devlin, a young, widowed, female physician in 1672 London. Threatened with imprisonment for practicing without license, Hannah becomes physician to Louise de Keroualle, mistress to King Charles II and afflicted with the clap. Pretty soon, dead men turn up on London, strange figures carved on their chests.The other story follows that of Claire Donovan, who first appeared in The Rossetti Letter. Here, Claire has accepted a position as lecturer at Trinity College, Cambridge, through the influence of Andrew Kent. Claire has a run-in with another fellow, who one day turns up dead. Soon, it becomes clear that the murder in the present day is connected with those of the past, and Claire finds herself, like Hannah, investigating murder.I really enjoyed this book. Although Hannah is a little bit modern and feminist, I really enjoyed reading her story. The story that takes place in the present isn¿t quite as compelling, but I thought the author¿s transitions from one time to another were really well done. I guess my biggest problem with this novel were the scenes set in the present day. While the author did an excellent job researching the Restoration, she seems to have completely skipped over doing her research for the modern-day story. The British characters weren¿t really British in the way they talked (for example, two different characters say that someone is ¿in the hospital,¿ when a real English person would say ¿in hospital,¿ unless talking about a specific place). Also, I thought the murder in the present day was a little tacked on, and the murderer (and their motive) gave me cause to scratch my head.This book is sort of a sequel to The Rossetti Letter; references are made to that book throughout The Devlin Diary, but I felt that not reading The Rossetti Letter was a detriment to my enjoying the story of this book. As I said, I enjoyed the historical parts of this novel the most; it¿s too bad that the author didn¿t choose to focus solely on Hannah¿s story.
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 )