I love The Clairvoyant Countess, the previous book before this one, and was happy to find out that there is a sequel...written 25 years or so after the last one. This is published in 2002, the last one was published (and takes place in) the seventies.
As you can imagine, there is a dilemma for this author, should she choose to resurrect Madame Karitska's world. Do you:
- continue writing the plot where it left off in the 1970's
- write Madame Karitska 25 years older, though she might be very old/possibly dead, or at least be performing Miss Marple-esque feats despite advanced age.
Were I Dorothy Gilman, I would have chosen the first option, but instead, the author has taken a third option, one I haven't seen done much other than in Long May She Reign: magically skip ahead and pretend the series always took place in the 2000's. There is a specific plotline focusing on Y2K-esque fears of technology being taken out--which really doesn't fit with the rest of Madame's world, which still seems firmly rooted in the seventies. People still make comments about people with long hair, money has no inflation, and Madame places an ad in the newspaper personals and sends off a check to do so. It's all so...well, fine in the seventies, but doesn't match at all in the 2000's for Madame to live as she does. And the tech plot stands out SO MUCH from the other plots (a recurring homeless shelter, a cult, a bank robbery, a murder where forensics could have easily cleared the young deaf-mute girl framed badly for it, etc.) that it emphasizes the time problem more. I also couldn't help but wonder at the case involving an actress--a young girl (implied to be in her 20's) investigating the life of an actress friend of her mom's. Both were born in 1921, making Kate ah... born to a mother who was at least fifty.
Argh. I really get the feeling that the author wanted to keep the series in its original time, submitted the book as such, and then the publisher forced her to update it with a tech plot at the last minute. It doesn't work, and I wish the story had stayed in its entire place.
So, how was the rest of the book? Still pretty good, if you can ignore the time problems I mentioned. It's nice to see old characters return, and I still enjoy Madame's psychometry as a way of solving problems and finding out information. In some cases this works brilliantly, such as the actress's case. In the case of the murder, however, it just seems quaint to solve a case like that when modern science would have done it. And towards the end, Madame has to use her powers differently/not at all when she's tapped in to work at a carnival and can't do psychometry at it.
I don't know...I enjoy Madame's world, but clearly I wish it hadn't been monkeyed with.