Sunday, 25 October 2015

ROSETTA by Simon Cornish

3.5 out of 5 stars

Novella - archaeology based mystery

On Amazon UK HERE

Reviewed by me as part of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team

I quite liked this; it's a terrific plot.  Following the unexpected death of his old university professor, Graham Chandlers travels to Exeter for the funeral. He is bewildered by the strange ritual performed by the professor's adopted daughter at the funeral service, a ritual delivered in an ancient language that only a handful of paleolinguists, Graham included, would have a hope of understanding. He is drawn in further when he studies the professor’s private journals that hint at a cover-up concerning the professor’s last dig.

This short novella is intelligently written and unusual.  It's a shame, though, that it wasn't a bit longer with a less abrupt resolution; the story lends itself more to a full length novel, or at least a longer novella.  I felt that it needed another redraft and perhaps a closer edit.  Example: 'they ate sitting at the table by the double sash windows'.  Why 'double sash'?  Just 'window' would have been enough, or even 'they ate at a table by the window' (most people sit when eating, it's not necessary to state it).  I know that seems a little nit-picking, but it's just one that jumped out at me.  Novellas work best when they contain absolutely no superfluous information; some of it seemed to come directly from the research notes.  Had the story been longer, such sections might have fitted in more smoothly.  It could do with another proofread; there are a fair few punctuation errors.

I thought the characterisation of Tinkerbell, the jovial and hard drinking Dr Timothy Bell, was excellent, the exchanges between him and Graham spot on.  I liked some of the observations very much:  'there was a stillness to the place that was both restful and lonely' (that gave possibly the best impression of the house), also: 'Funerals are never nice, people say they are nice or that the service was lovely, but mostly funerals are just uncomfortable', and the one with which the story begins: 'There is a denial of finality that comes with the arrogance of youth.'

To sum up: a great idea, nicely written, needs a bit of tidying up.  Graham Chandlers is a quietly appealing character who could be taken further, I think, and I am sure that people who enjoy stories of cover-ups and mysteries will like it.


  1. Thanks Terry, this book is on my own list I am intrigued by the archaeology side of it.

    1. Yes, I found that side of it fascinating. I liked the 'academia' quality of the book a great deal :)