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Death in Delft por Graham Brack
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Death in Delft

por Graham Brack

Séries: Master Mercurius (1)

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Mostrando 1-5 de 8 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
I haven't read anything by this author before, and came across this book while looking for a light (as opposed to gritty/grim) historical mystery. It was a quick and easy read with tidy writing. The plot makes sense with how the clues come together, although I raised an eyebrow more than once over how a few of the characters behaved and spoke to each other in certain situations.

The novel is narrated in first person by Mercurius himself. At times he's quite flippant, which I didn't mind. Some readers might find him irritating. The way he presents himself gives me an odd impression of naivety. This makes him socially awkward at times, although that doesn't cause him any consequences, and sometimes (given that he's the narrator) comes across as disingenuous. He generally makes correct inferences (rather, inferences that subsequently turn out to be correct) based on evidence provided to him by witnesses and his co-investigators. These latter included a host of famous names, and I probably haven't recognised several.

Overall, an entertaining, straightforward mystery in a distinctive historical setting.
  MHThaung | Mar 3, 2021 |
I was struggling between a 3-star and 4-star for this and decided to go with 4 stars for Master Mercurius's wit. e.g.

"I once went to France and everywhere else has seemed so much better since then."

The story was engaging and the storyline twists were believable. There is a fair amount of theological material in the story but with Mercurius being both a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister, his wrestling with the conflicting dogmas made for a much more likable character. The clues that lead to solving the "crime" are slowly pieced together.

I liked this well enough that the 2nd book in the series is in my TBR (To Be Read) pile. ( )
  feralcatbob | Dec 22, 2020 |
The story is set in the beautiful city of Delft during the Golden Age of the Netherlands . Three eight year old girls are missing. One of them is found buried in a field just outside the city. The city council of Delft asks Master Mercurius of the University of Leiden to assist them in recovering the girls and solving this crime. Mercurius is a far from perfect character. For one thing ,he is a protestant minister and an ordained catholic priest which is not always an easy marriage in the 17th century low countries. But he is very likeable, intelligent and disarmingly naive. He also meets some very interesting people among which Johannes Vermeer,the painter,and Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek,the founder of modern microbiology. And there is the city of Delft in the background of course. You know with some books that as soon as you start reading them that they are going to be alright (or more than alright). Historical mystery fiction is not always a perfect blend between the different parts. Sometimes there is not enough historical data,sometimes there is just too much and the mystery story just disappears in a swamp (or in this case perhaps a canal) of titbits and not relevant facts. But here it really ticked off and all the boxes. The setting,in the dead of winter,was both enchanting and a bit eerie. Sometimes it felt as if I was walking through one of Vermeer's paintings. The slippery cobblestones,the dykes,the wind mills and the endless sky hovering over the frost covered fields. Perhaps one little remark,nothing to do with the quality of the story,but the frozen fields,icy sleet and biting wind makes this a perfect read for the winter. ( )
  Obi2015 | Jul 19, 2020 |
Unconventional cleric investigates the disappearance of three eight-year-old girls in Delft in 1671 and meets anyone you've ever heard of from seventeenth-century Delft along the way.


'Death In Delft' is the start of a new Historical Murder Mystery series following the adventures of Master Mercurius in seventeenth-century Holland.

It's told in the form of a journal written by Master Mercurius some years later. This allows Mercurius to comment on the errors of judgement and excesses of optimism that his younger self suffers from. It provides an intimacy with Master Mercurius, who shares his thoughts in his journal in ways that he doesn't feel free to do in conversation with others. It also allows a certain amount of foreboding to increase tension and some neat wrapping up of the 'only four years later, the same man would...' kind.

The mystery and the unfolding of the plot are both fairly straight-forward with the only novelty coming from the methods that Master Mercurius uses. The plot is really a vehicle for Master Mercurius to meet a wide variety of people in Delft, especially the rich men who run the place. Mercurius dines with just about anyone you've ever heard of in seventeenth-century Delft and we hear about their passions and their ambitions.

At the centre of the whole thing is Master Mercurius himself, a man who studies at the University at Leiden and who has, for reasons that this first book in the series never got to the bottom of, been ordained both as a Protestant Minister and a Catholic Priest. The latter, is something that he has to keep secret in Holland, a predominantly Protestant country with a sporadic history of executing Catholics as political winds change direction.

Initially, I quite liked this bright but slightly innocent cleric but, on closer acquaintance, I become disenchanted with his flippancy and found it hard to believe that he was a man with a vocation as a Catholic Priest. Here's an example of why. He is explaining why he needs to spend a little time getting together a list of sins before going to confession on a Friday:

I hesitate to claim any special holiness of my own, but fortunately I have been prevented from sin by an almost total lack of opportunities: I have no need of money, and women have always found me immensely resistible, so occasions for sin do not often come my way. The result is that on the eve of confession it usually takes me quite a while to think of anything to confess, and I frequently find myself making things up, such as owning up to impure thoughts that I have not actually had. This is a good choice, because confessors, being priests (and men) themselves, sympathise and keep the penances to a minimum so that we will go on sharing our imaginary sexual fantasies with them in the confessional; when you have passed an hour or two on the other side of the grille hearing people’s confessions, you can do with all the excitement you can get.

I thought 'Death In Delft' was a pleasant, gentle read that gave me a window into a world I knew very little about but I didn't like Master Mercurius well enough to seek out his company a second time.

( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
In the Mid-17th century three girls disappear in the town of Delft. When one is found dead the town's Mayor contacts the University in Leiden asking for help, Master Mercurius is dispatched. The weather is bitterly cold and there is little hope of survival for the other two girls if he cannot solve the crime.
This is a simple and quite entertaining historical detective novel. The setting is unusual in that it is in a Dutch Republic that is just starting to be prosperous and where religious conformity is everything. The only discordant note for me was the shoehorning of known figures into the narrative, there was no great need to place Vermeer and Van Leewunheok into the story, I felt it was a novel device too far. In fact the story bounces along at a pace and this si a quick and undemanding read. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | May 4, 2020 |
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