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The Vesuvius Isotope (The Katrina Stone…
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The Vesuvius Isotope (The Katrina Stone Novels) (Volume 1)

by Kristen Elise Ph.D.

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The Vesuvius Isotope is nothing if not a piece of work. Now, I admit I may have used that exact phrase recently in a review of a strange object purporting to be a worthwhile book that was something else entirely. I use the phrase in a very different sense today.

What strikes me most about Elise's writing is the seemingly effortless (to read and one would almost imagine to write) intricacy of her craft. This book is an intellectual banquet, but it's not too filling. The text is unquestionably dense, but strangely this type of density doesn't prevent the reader from moving along at a constant and comfortable pace. It's carefully crafted, but it isn't cumbersome -- you don't have to be a rigorous reader at all. I'm not getting any closer to giving you a clear idea of what I mean, am I?

OK, well, that's the impression I have of this work that has yielded the five stars above and my most hearty recommendation of this book to any readers who think the plot sounds potentially interesting.

But before I finish this piece of work I imagine I ought to unpack what I was trying to articulate above with some description of how Elise's hard work shows itself to advantage in the book itself. First of all the whole plot is interwoven with historical and scientific mysteries. Elise focuses on the adventure and mystery and not on esoteric details that might confuse a lay reader or distract from the action.

Moreover, the first person narration and the constant inclusion of dialogue between the characters throughout each part of the book ensure that the reader once hooked, stays hooked. There are no long third-person narrations about symbolic external elements, landscapes, elaborate intricacies of character psychology, moral or thematic summation, or anything like you'd see in say...George Eliot, James Joyce (at best) or even Don DeLillo or Cormac McCarthy at times (not sure those guys always carry the heft so well as the Greats).

So what's so heavy about the novel that might cause it to be overwhelming if a few things were different?

1) The sheer amount of action in the plot and the amount of detailed knowledge that underlies the twists and turns around the world and down historical and scientific alleyways in manners that are exciting and carefully translated for her audience's interest. You can see Elise's deft hand in this effective craftsmanship using her tools as a scholar and a storyteller together.

2) The easy hand with which Elise incorporates, on the left side page when each of the chapters commences on the right page opposing, a wide range of historical contextual information through the liberal use of quotations (which always apply to the portion of the novel on a variety of levels, naturally). I think it's brilliant that Elise can take you as deep and historically contextualized as you want to get; she offers a close reader a lot to sink her teeth into here. But, if you just want a good story, don't worry too much about the Plutarch on the left and enjoy this intriguing mystery!

Sorry for being too verbose and inarticulate here; I'm not that great a writer myself, and it's late. Oh yeah, I got my copy through the First Reads program on GoodReads. ( )
  kara.shamy | Jan 12, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0989381900, Paperback)

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:05 -0400)

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