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The Judas Kiss by Victoria Holt
#1
Philippa Ewell has always been very close to her sister Francine, especially when after the death of their parents they have to live with their stern grandfather at Greystone Manor. Grandfather decides Francine must marry odious cousin Arthur, but luckily Francine can escape by running off with a foreign baron who is visiting a neighboring mansion. Through letters Philippa learns of Francine's marriage, life abroad and the birth of her son. After a few years the letters stop, however, and it isn't before Philippa is seventeen years old herself that she reads in a newspaper clipping that Francine has been murdered together with her lover. Lover? Francine had told Philippa that she had been married! And what had become of the child? If only Philippa could go abroad to find out!

Of course Philippa does indeed find a way to travel to Bruxenstein and unravel the mystery around her sister's death and the whereabouts of her little nephew, in the meantime landing a handsome baron for herself.

I think this is one of the lesser gothics Victoria Holt has written. It's an interesting tale, it flows well, but ultimately it all seems a bit ridiculous. Philippa isn't very bright and rather gullible. But if she hadn't been, the story would have developed differently, which obviously wasn't Ms. Holt's intention. The atmosphere also is more fairytale than gothic. Picture a Bavarian castle, (the cover of one of the paperback editions even shows a castle resembling Neuschwanstein), dukes, counts and barons, forests with hunting lodges and quaint little cottages, and a handsome prince, errr... baron. I liked that the hero professed his undying love for Philippa early on, though I didn't like that he apparently didn't love her enough to protect her from his taking advantage of her love for him. I hope that sentence makes sense. Smile

I have read this book before and this time I listened to it as an audiobook. This was a new experience for me, which was quite nice. I do feel that reading a book from paper somehow leaves a better imprint on your brain than when it comes in through your ears. One of its causes may be that while reading you can set your own pace and every word and sentence has the time to get fixed in your mind. The narrator never stops so even if a sentence hasn't been processed completely, you must already listen to the next one. I hope that makes sense as well. Smile They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which may also apply to the picture of the words themselves.

The narrator is Eva Haddon and I think she did a great job. She can use several voices for the different people and I liked her children's voices best. Her male voices were rather huskily, so the hero sounded like an old man. She was great using German accents as well, making me wonder how it was possible that she didn't know the "ä" in the German word Gräfin must sound like "race" and not like "vase". As "Gräfin" was mentioned 61 times, this became rather irritating.

My verdict: a 7 out of 10

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#2
(12-14-2011, 08:22 AM)Charybdis Wrote: The narrator is Eva Haddon and I think she did a great job. She can use several voices for the different people and I liked her children's voices best. Her male voices were rather huskily, so the hero sounded like an old man. She was great using German accents as well, making me wonder how it was possible that she didn't know the "ä" in the German word Gräfin must sound like "race" and not like "vase". As "Gräfin" was mentioned 61 times, this became rather irritating.

Some of the better readers will do the homework necessary to make sure foreign words are pronounced correctly, especially those which appear many times in the story. The narrator for Evelyn Berckman's The Evil of Time made the same error with the word Gräfin, pronouncing it "grahfin" instead of "greyfin" or "grefin".
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#3
I've just realized the story of Francine and her baron "lover" must have been inspired by crown prince Rudolph of Austria and Maria Vetsera. They were found dead in the hunting lodge in Mayerling and most people believe they committed suicide. Victoria Holt chose to have her lovers killed for political reasons, which makes much more sense. Yesterday I watched Kronprinz Rudolph (TV 2006) and tonight Mayerling (1968) and found them equally boring. What is the story with Maria Vetsera? Which lively 17 year old will agree to have herself killed over the dubious love of a spoiled prince? The other theory - political murder - seems much more likely, although why wouldn't the royal family have admitted to this and not have to worry about dispensation from the church to have Rudolph buried in the family plot?
I would like to add a theory of my own: why not have Maria Vetsera be the evil one? Rudolph has been heard making remarks like he was obsessed by her. Couldn't it be so that she had some hold over him, or was blackmailing him? Then Maria's death might have been a crime passionnel, followed by Rudolph's own suicide because he couldn't face the consequences of having murdered someone. Ah, if only I were a writer myself...
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