Sunday, April 1, 2018

Review: The Study of Silence by Malia Zaidi

The Study of Silence (Lady Evelyn Mystery #3)
by Malia Zaidi
Release Date: February 27th 2018
2018 Bookbaby
Ebook Edition; 448 Pages
ISBN: 978-1543916384
ASIN: B077Y71C67
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from Pump up Your Book

3.5 / 5 Stars

 Lady Evelyn Carlisle has returned home to England, where she is completing her degree at St. Hugh's, a women's college in Oxford. Her days are spent poring over ancient texts and rushing to tutorials. All is well until a fateful morning, when her peaceful student life is turned on its head. Stumbling upon the gruesome killing of someone she thought she knew, Evelyn is plunged into a murder investigation once more, much to the chagrin of her friends and family, as well as the intriguing Detective Lucas Stanton. The dreaming spires of Oxford begin to appear decidedly less romantic as she gathers clues, and learns far more than she ever wished to know about the darkness lurking beyond the polished veneer. Can she solve the crime before the killer strikes once more, this time to Evelyn's own detriment?

My Thoughts
The Study in Silence is the third book in the Lady Evelyn mystery series, and while the first two books in this series were amazing, I have to admit that this entry was somewhat unsatisfying.  I really felt like Lady Evelyn spent way too much time thinking about her life and what was happening around her, slowing the story down to the point where I actually started flipping through the pages to get to the story.  And while I really enjoy Lady Evelyn, and like her thoughts about independence, her actions in this one make her seem foolish and naive.  

In this installment, Lady Evelyn has returned to England after spending time in France and Crete and seemed to be adjusting to life back at home. She has been working hard on finishing her degree in classical studies and enjoys working with the people around her. And while a wealthy woman from that time period would probably not be living on her own at Oxford, it did fit quite well into the story so I just went with it and enjoyed it as it was.  Evelyn was an unusual woman for that time period anyways, and I did enjoy her spirit and her independence.  I also really liked how she stood up for her friends and put others in place who were a bit more selfish.  It was kind of interesting to see Evelyn go from being really nice to biting all in one conversation, all within the strict bounds of society.  I also liked the little nuances she mentioned about her upbringing and how if she was a proper young lady, she would have been doing this or doing that, as well as her discomfiture when having to use a knife and fork to eat a meal with which she was having trouble.  All little things described in such a way to explain strict societal rules from which she was trying to break.  I really feel this is where the strength of this novel lies, but this is also where I have a problem with this novel.

It is always interesting to learn more about the personal past of a beloved character as well as the secondary characters in a novel, but I really felt as if the author went too far in this one.  There is nothing wrong with introspection, but when half the book is spent in it, it gets tedious and monotonous, especially in a mystery novel, and really does take away from the overall feel of the novel.  I honestly felt like the author kind of lost track of the purpose of the novel trying to give voice to Evelyn's thoughts and lost the thread of where she was going.  Don't get me wrong, I loved learning more about Evelyn's family, adored her cousins and Daniel, and the other new characters introduced along the way, but also felt the author had a difficult time finding that fine line between mystery novel and women's lit.  It also made me want to throttle Evelyn by the end of the novel which I doubt is something the author wanted me to feel.  I think she was trying to show how difficult it was for a woman during this time period to be independent and make choices that would allow them to keep that independence.  But it didn't really work out that way for me.

When Evelyn goes to a professor's dinner party, little does she know that said professor will be found dead the next morning.  While the mystery is somewhat interesting, I really did have to stretch my concepts of believability.  Not on the part of the actions of the professor, but for the reasons why the murder was committed in the first place and by whom. I get that society viewed women very differently during that time period, and certain actions are definitely not seen the way back then as they are today, but something just felt off about the whole thing.  And a lot of it had to do with Evelyn's interest in the murder investigation as I just couldn't see why she was so interested in getting herself involved or why people would be interested in her involvement when she ddidn't really do much.  She was just one of the professor's students and had no real involvement in any of their lives.   And I know that while she was supposed to come off as interested and independent in these scenes, to me, she actually came off as a bit bullyish and annoying in her dealings with the Inspector, and yes, I did roll my eyes a few times. I couldn't help it.

The Study of Silence is a well-written book that really touches upon a lot of issues during this era and women's rights, or lack thereof.  Her descriptions of 1920s Oxford are really great and I could picture myself there easily walking the streets or having a hot chocolate at one of stores.  I really like Lady Evelyn, but I thought the novel was somewhat too long and too much time was spent on her thoughts and turmoils which actually caused the novel to drag, making me wonder when we were going to get back to the mystery.  I highly recommend that readers pick up the first two in this series before reading this one; you will get some background information and a lot of fun.