Bristol House – Beverly Swerling

Bristol HouseIn modern-day London, architectural historian and recovering alcoholic Annie Kendall hopes to turn her life around and restart her career by locating several long-missing pieces of ancient Judaica. Geoff Harris, an investigative reporter, is soon drawn into her quest, both by romantic interest and suspicions about the head of the Shalom Foundation, the organization sponsoring her work. He’s also a dead ringer for the ghost of a monk Annie believes she has seen at the flat she is subletting in Bristol House.

In 1535, Tudor London is a very different city, one in which monks are being executed by Henry VIII and Jews are banished. In this treacherous environment of religious persecution, Dom Justin, a Carthusian monk, and a goldsmith known as the Jew of Holborn must navigate a shadowy world of intrigue involving Thomas Cromwell, Jewish treasure, and sexual secrets. Their struggles shed light on the mysteries Annie and Geoff aim to puzzle out—at their own peril.

This riveting dual-period narrative seamlessly blends a haunting supernatural thriller with vivid historical fiction. Beverly Swerling, widely acclaimed for her City of Dreams series, delivers a bewitching and epic story of a historian and a monk, half a millennium apart, whose destinies are on a collision course.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this book. It never fully drew me in and I was never excited to continue reading it. There was nothing wrong with the writing, but it was overly complicated and too bogged down by details. I felt like it was trying too hard to be too many things. It was trying to be a historical fiction novel with elements of the paranormal. It was a romance as well as a mystery/thriller that also attempted to teach the reader about Tudor times. It was all too much. I mean, it even included a shadowy organization. Overall, it was a poor man’s Da Vinci Code.

I think the plot could have been interesting, but there were too many coincidences and I was bored while reading about the history. It was also quite jarring to move between the perspectives of three different characters during different times. It never fully formed into a coherent novel. Perhaps simplifying and editing would have helped.

This book had potential, but unfortunately never followed through. I probably won’t be reading any of Beverly Swerling’s other novels.



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