“Madam Tulip and the Bones of Chance” by David Ahern

Be careful what you ask for. I’ve been an avid reader all my life, but now I read professionally, and sometimes it can be, quite frankly, a bore. So it’s a great pleasure when I’m offered a book that I actually enjoy. I have always liked David Ahern’s Madam Tulip stories, but this one is even better than the rest.
Ahern’s writing is maturing. The usual theatrical chitchat that he always starts out with is quicker and wittier than it used to be. The usual conflict, which always involves just a little too much agonizing over the lack of jobs, is turned upside down by the appearance of a humdinger of a film role with a great amount of money to boot.
The expected byplay of the subplot about her feuding parents has matured into a more complex and entertaining duel, in which her mother demonstrates her right to the title of “truly Macheavelian.”
Since the story takes place in Scotland, the writing almost achieves the feel and grace of the Alexander McCall Smith stories, although this novel outpaces McCall Smith in potboiler mode.
The only drop in my enjoyment came in the last quarter of the novel, when the detective plotline takes a far-too-sudden right-angle turn and skitters into deus ex machina territory. We find ourselves beautifully immersed in the internal reactions of the main character as disaster sweeps over her, but the practicality of the plotline is sketchy and the villains lose their individuality as they don the anonymous guise of the military.
However the action is strong and the suspense enthralling, so we read voraciously through to the end.
Highly recommended for fans of Madam Tulip, Alexander McCall Smith, and any who appreciate quirky humour with a touch of magic.
(5 / 5)

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