Monday, July 8, 2013

REVIEW: Bristol House by Beverly Swerling

Synopsis: In 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.

My Thoughts:  I have read a few of Beverly Swerling's books set in Old New York and enjoyed them very much.  This one seemed like it would be quite a departure from the New York books and it definitely was.  Dr. Annie Kendall is given the opportunity she has been waiting for-to prove she has overcome her past demons and advance her career by taking on the task of researching the existence of the Jew of Holborn-a person thought to have possessed ancient Judaica.  The assignment seems straight forward enough but it soon proves to be the exact opposite as Annie realizes she is sharing her flat with the ghost of a dead Carthusian Monk-and one that is bent on sending her some kind of message.  As Annie tries to unravel the threads which will prove the existence of the Tudor era Jew she seeks, she begins to realize that her employer may have different motives than he originally stated for wanting the information he sent her to find.  Along for the ride is reporter Geoff Harris who becomes Annie's rock and confidante as the mystery surrounding the ancient artifacts and the Jew of Holborn deepens.  As the two grow closer to each other they also move closer  to danger as they begin to unlock pieces of the puzzle that some would prefer to remain hidden.

While this ended up being a rather good story with a lot of moving parts, it really took awhile to get going.  I think this is because in the beginning more of the book is set in the present establishing Annie's back story with short forays into the story of Dom Justin, the Monk haunting Annie's apartment.  This book also ended up being quite different from what I expected because it ended up being more in the vein of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown or Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell.  Once the author started to flesh out the story of Dom Justin, the Jew of Holborn, and his beautiful daughter I became much more interested in the story-especially because as she does with all her novels, Swerling envelopes her story with such great historical detail you can almost picture yourself there.  I am glad I kept reading past the slower paced beginning because I really did end up enjoying  this one.  I may have liked the parts in the past a bit more than the Annie/Geoff portions but these two grew on me quite a bit as the story progressed.  Annie went from a character I wasn't sure I would like to someone I was really rooting for at the end.   Pick this one up if you like to be surprised.  I always like when I can't manage to guess how it all ends before the characters get around to uncovering it and this one definitely had me wondering right up until the big reveal.

 I received this book from the publisher for review.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.


  1. I really enjoyed this one, too, and also found it wasn't exactly what I was expected. I've not read any of Swerling's other novels, but I will definitely check them out now.

  2. One book I could not get to during my recent visit to Melbourne. It is on my TBR and hopefully will get to it eventually.