Bingo Update: This is my Reading the TBR square. Kate Morton books automatically go on that list once their publication dates are announced!
I’m on the record as a HUGE Kate Morton fan. So much so that I buy each of her books in soft cover so I can see them all on my bookshelf (which is a rarity these days in an age where I love the convenience of my Kindle). She has a way with prose, mystery, and history that I just can’t get enough of. I may have found the book that counts as “enough now.”
The Clockmaker’s Daughter, like the bulk of Morton’s work, focuses on a mystery from the past unravelling via multiple timelines and discoveries made in the present. The focus is on another house, there are multiple POVs, and the mystery isn’t completely unravelled until the end. The difference here is that except for the quality of the prose generally, not a single one of those things worked entirely this time around.
This book is focused on Birchwood Manor, location of a mysterious murder in 1862 and a present day archivist who feels very connected to the house. The 1862 timeline centers on a group of young artists, led by Edward Radcliffe, and his affairs of the heart as well as his art. The end of the retreat ruins Edward’s life and leads to the disappearance of a priceless heirloom. Present day is all about Elodie Winslow discovering one of Edward’s sketches of the house and a mysterious young woman in a photograph. The two weave together, ostensibly, to reveal what actually transpired all those years ago and the whereabouts of the missing jewelry.
The result is…messy. I love multiple POVs and time periods, but here there are too many and they bounce around too much. I had a hard time keeping track of characters and the plot in general. This lack of focus led to the biggest problem – a lack of interest in most of our principle characters. I can put up with a lot if I’m invested in the people, but I really wasn’t here. The prose is still wonderful; Kate has a way with words that is consistent across all of her work. I think the problem here is that her editor needed to take a stronger hand. With some revisions, and cutting some things out to re-focus the narrative, the potential is there for a much better story. We just don’t get it here.
If you’re a Kate Morton fan, and a completionist, there are worse ways to spend your time. It’s certainly not a bad book. But I’d recommend any of her other books above this one.