Book Review: Mummies and Murder!

Book Reviewed: The Keepsake (2009)
Available from: Rainy Day Books, or other fine booksellers.
I was pre-sold to love this book.  I mean, mummies and murder!  What about that is not interesting?  I spotted this book on my aunt’s bookshelf when I was visiting last fall, and chose it with positive expectations.  However, I immediately ran into problems with it.
First problem: it starts with a prologue. I generally hate prologues.  I’ve rarely read one I felt delivered information we couldn’t have learned in the story itself. I’ve read so many pointless prologues, that lately  I have to fight to keep an open mind about the skill of the writer, whenever I run into another [expletive deleted] prologue.
Worse, there’s an unnamed, first-person narrator in this [expletive deleted] prologue, and s/he is muttering about fuzzy facts and talking in unspecified time frames.  I hate that.  It was cryptic to the point of I-started-skimming-very-rapidly.  Thank goodness that stuff is done with, when the [expletive deleted] prologue ends.  If it had gone on much longer I would never have finished the book.

Once I got into the story proper, the writing improved dramatically, but then I encountered what I came to think of as the “TV interference.” 

The names are the same, but TV changed things!
One reason I was intrigued to try the book was that it was billed as a “Rizzoli & Isles” novel.  Yep, I watch the show.  It’s not my utter favorite cop drama on TV (too many high-heel foot-chase scenes and long hair not pulled back at crime scenes or the morgue, for two reasons), but I like it enough to have programmed a “series record” command for it on my DVR.
Yeah, I know TV is a different medium and storytelling must be done in different ways, but I was not quite prepared to see exactly how much the TV show has deviated from the original books.  I kind of expected the characters to seem . . . familiar.
So I’m reading along, and–wait.  Frost is blond? And married?  
Jane has a husband and a daughter?  
Maura’s in love with a priest??  Yikes!
Who are these people?  The names sound familiar, the setting is Boston . . . but woah.  Okay: not the TV show at all.  Major reset!  But once I stopped expecting them to be people with the same names that I knew from TV, I found the characters likable and interesting.
So, all right, I had some problems getting started.  But once I got past the [expletive deleted] prologue and the character-cognitive-dissonance, what about the story?  
Mummification: part of a unique M.O.!
Actually, that was pretty cool. Good villain, some logical but unexpected plot twists, plus did I mention the combination of mummies and murder?   
I liked Josephine, the murderer’s main “target,” and especially the way she tried to fight back, even when she was at a huge disadvantage.  On the other hand, there were several times when she had maddening blind spots.

I did kind of see the end coming. It followed a  formula that’s become kind of standard, especially on TV, and this wasn’t written long enough ago to be a new approach. I would like for the author to have thought harder about “what if X realizes this, at that point?” to make the denouement take less predictable turns.

But (except for the prologue) it was pretty well written, and quite readable, and the archaeology angle was a lot of fun.  Would I say it was worth the time?  Yeah, I would.  But you probably could skip the prologue, and don’t expect the characters to be much like what you remember from TV!

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Tess Gerritsen’s Website for the cover image!  The First Seasoon Rizzoli & Isles show poster is courtesy of the “Sylum Clan” Blog.  The photo of the mummy and sarcophagus is from the Dead Media Archive.

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jansgephardt

Kansas City-based Jan S. Gephardt is a writer, artist, and teacher. She makes nationally-recognized paper sculpture and writes sf mystery novels about a sapient police dog.

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