With Quiver, Holly Luhning has written a passable first novel that I, for the most part, enjoyed. There were issues, again, with the fact that I'm not sure if the novel itself knew what it wanted to be -- which is something I've encountered a lot these days in the books I've been reading, especially with first novels -- it's part thriller, part historical fiction, part conspiracy and suspense, with some chicklit cliches thrown in there (I've never met a heroine who fixes her makeup so much in any other book before).
Annnywaaay. Danica aka "Dani" has landed a plum fellowship at Stowmoor Psychiatric Hospital in London. A relic from the Victorian era, the hospital holds some of the country's most violent offenders, including Martin Foster, a man who brutally murdered a young girl in the name of Elizabeth Báthory, the 16th century countess infamous for bathing in the blood of her victims so it would preserver her youth. The cult of Báthory unwinds throughout the novel in a distinct Da Vinci-like way -- with found "diaries" and a secret group of people dedicated to keeping her memory and, for lack of a better word, "ways" alive. Dani has always had a fascination for Báthory, and this leads her into some dangerous territory. She meets a mysterious and beautiful "archivist," Maria, while at a conference. She's glamourous and a bit dangerous, and thus Dani's slippery slope begins -- soon she finds herself making professional errors and her personal life (she moved to England with artist boyfriend Henry) begins to fall apart.
Because something just isn't right.
Oh there's intrigue and italics, lots of secret meetings, and plenty of gruesome details, but the whole book lacks a certain focus to make it truly creepy. It just didn't quite get there for me, maybe because I found it a little too melodramatic in places, especially in the sections of the recreated diaries, and Luhning has a penchant for tangents when she's trying to make a point in places where fast-paced plotting would have been more beneficial.
There's a lot of Silence of the Lambs meets Interview with a Vampire within these pages -- a lot of rich description and I do find the whole Báthory backstory utterly fascinating. I just wish it was better entwined with the general plot and action of the book. A lot of the times, I found myself wondering how Dani got to be a psychologist at all -- she's quite terrible at reading people, and falls into obvious traps that would have more advanced crime fiction enthusiasts rolling their eyes a little bit.
That said, it's a really easy book to fall into, and that always takes talent -- to grab the reader and haul them along for a nice 1.5 day diversion. And I was truly creeped out by some of Báthory's behaviour -- and would have liked to have seen a lot more of it throughout the novel.