Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: The Drowning Tree

This novel contains all the elements that reverberate through Goodman's work: single mother and teenage daughter, historical mystery, academic institution with a potentially dark secret, and mysterious works of art. Carol Goodman can write a cracking good mystery, and she's done it again here. Reading Goodman means that I can be sure I'm getting a good page-turner, that I'll be taken in with suspense, and that I'll be rushing to get to the end to find the solution to the mystery.

Those praises accounted for, I must also mention that this is my third Goodman novel, and the formula is getting a bit worn. The plots are always well-constructed, but the cast of characters and the love story are always so very similar. The main character is always a single mother, an artist or academic interested in the arts. I'll keep reading Goodman's books, but it's starting to seem like an exercise in diminishing returns. I first read The Lake of Dead Languages, and thought it was brilliant. I'm not sure that The Drowning Tree (or Arcadia Falls, which I've also read) are lesser books, it's just that they're starting to seem repetitive.

This particular story relied on the descriptions of some rather complicated architecture, including a sunken garden. I sometimes found it quite difficult to visualize these features, and they are integral to the plot. Goodman has the ability to visualize complicated and dramatic landscapes, but they're not always easy for the reader to recreate.

All of this said, I will continue to read Goodman's books, but I'm hoping that some of her other works will offer some new elements.

Carol Goodman, The Drowning Tree (Ballantine, 2004) ISBN: 0345462122

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