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gnat (29)

gnat
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Journal of gnat (29)

Monday January 13, 2003
02:13 PM

Review: A Twist at the End, by Steven Saylor

[ #9942 ]
I love Steven Saylor's books. He's written a series of mysteries set in ancient Rome (the Roma Sub Rosa series) which I've eagerly devoured. "A Twist at the End", however, represents quite a large departure. Far from the politics of the Roman senate, this mystery is set in Austin, Texas, in 1885. The protagonist is O. Henry.

That premise alone hooked me. It was enough to get me through the cowboy talk that populates the Wild West. Actually, Saylor seems able to put in only enough "Oh, Mama!"isms to remind you that this is the Wild West, but not so many that you need to pause and think "what the hell did that mean?" Normally the dialogue is what puts me off historical fiction, but I survived this book unscathed.

The book is long (you get 561 pages for your $7.50) and the story is elongated. Saylor based it around an actual set of murders in Austin in the time that O. Henry (whose real name was Will Porter) was working there. It's interesting that Saylor specifically doesn't try for an O. Henry-like turnaround at the end of the novel--you know for most of the book who the murderer was, and instead Saylor milks the drama from the characters and not knowing what's bringing Will Porter back to Austin after 20 years.

In short, a good read but long--it took me about four hours of solid reading. It wasn't as enjoyable for me as the Roma Sub Rosa series because I didn't enjoy the world of 1885 Austin as much as the world of Rome in the first century B.C, but it sure beat the in-flight magazine :-)

Ranking: 7.5/10.

--Nat

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