This is one of those books I read because of a recommendation somewhere online — only thing time I remember where the recommendation came from: Jo Walton over on the Tor blog. I don’t always keep up with the Tor blog like I’d like to, but there are plenty of interesting things going on there.
I feel odd leading with this in another review, but I can certainly understand why people have problems with these books. The tone is very arch, or twee, or just plain British, or most probably some mix of all three. It’s difficult to pin down the time period in which the story is meant to be happening. The thing everyone always mentions — that it’s never said whether the narrator, Hilary, is male or female — is practically an aside as far as the book goes, for it truly doesn’t matter.
What the book is, though, is one of those clockwork mystery stories, revealed through a series of letters interwoven with live-action (as it were) interludes, which are mostly coffee-fueled recaps of events that have already happened. There are many things to be amused at, clues slowly trickle out that make you reconsider what’s happened, and the ending is pretty clever.
Jo Walton’s review came with a caveat, that these books are mostly likely not best when read back-to-back, and having fallen afoul of series exhaustion before, I’m going to take that recommendation to heart.