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A RIP THROUGH TIME by Kelley Armstrong: Book Review

Mallory Atkinson has flown from Vancouver to Scotland to visit her beloved grandmother on her deathbed.  Mallory is so stressed one afternoon that she leaves the hospital room to have a few minutes for herself and walks to a nearby coffee shop to place an order for herself and her grandmother’s nurses.  Picking up the tray of drinks, she bumps into a man standing nearby and spatters his shirt with drops of coffee.  Mallory apologizes profusely and sincerely, but the man brushes her off.

That night, while her grandmother is sleeping, Mallory leaves the hospital.  She’s jogging across Edinburgh’s famous Grassmarket, a series of shops and stalls now closed for the night, when she suddenly feels a rope around her neck.  She manages to turn around and sees the man from the coffee shop, and farther down the alley she glimpses two figures.  “A young woman with honey-blond hair, in a cornflower-blue dress…a shadowy figure has his hands around her throat.”  And then darkness.

When she wakes, she’s in a dark, unfamiliar room, wearing a voluminous nightgown, a corset, and a wig.  She can’t make any sense of it.  Outside in the hall she hears three voices–a young girl’s, a woman’s, and a man’s.  She hears herself referred to as “Catriona,” and the door opens.

Trying to orient herself, Mallory decides to pretend she will be whomever the trio thinks she is.  That turns out to be Catriona Mitchell, the housemaid to Dr. Duncan Gray, the man who pushes open the door.  Trying to come to terms with her surroundings and the people who enter the room, she asks where she is.  Gray informs her she’s in Edinburgh, and it’s May 22, 1869.  That’s when she realizes that the blond woman she glimpsed in the alley was Catriona, and she had been strangled 150 years ago in the same spot where Mallory was attacked.

Back home in Canada, Mallory is a police detective, so she resolves to use her skills to discover how she traveled through time and is inhabiting Catriona’s body.  The only way she can find her attacker and return to her “real life,” she decides, is to continue to impersonate the housemaid, blaming everything she doesn’t know or does incorrectly on the concussion she suffered in the attack.

Duncan Gray is both an undertaker and a surgeon, not an unusual combination in the nineteenth century.  As Mallory proves herself not to be squeamish, Gray enlists her help with the most recent corpse brought to him, a young journalist who reported on crime for a local newspaper.

In some ways working with Gray makes Mallory’s life in the house more interesting, but it also makes it more difficult.  She’s constantly catching herself using words, wishing for modern conveniences, or making observations that are far removed from the Edinburgh medical scene of the 1860s–no fingerprints, no knowledge of DNA, no cellphones.  But still, her police background helps her navigate the world she’s landed in, and she tries as unobtrusively as possible to help the doctor with the murder investigation.

Kelley Armstrong has written a fascinating mystery, succeeding in making the reader accept the possibility of time travel and all that it entails.  Mallory Atkinson is a strong, believable heroine, one who is using her abilities to cope with her new life as well as trying to return to her old one.

You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


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