3 out of 4 stars
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To say that Mary Jo Myers' Paddington's Inner Circle doesn’t have a conflict is, technically, wrong. After all, there is a murder to be solved. In fact, the murder is the inciting incident of the novel’s story. Yet, the book isn’t a murder mystery. It doesn’t even come close to that. Rather, the novel centres around several characters and how their lives are affected by each other.
In this quaint little book, the reader is introduced to the town of Paddington and its inhabitants. We follow their daily lives as they work through conflict, trauma and love, culminating in their own journeys of self-discovery. At the heart of this is Lucinda Canale, a stigmatic with a particular power, and the newly divorced Rachel Swensen. As these two women come to understand themselves and their desires, Paddington comes together in the wake of one young woman’s tragic death.
I’m not sure I can actually summarise the book more than this, as there’s not much that actually happens. It’s very much a mundane look at a town's daily life and the way its residents grow through slow, steady work. It could have been a very boring book because of this, but Myers’ style is romantic enough that I feel comfortable giving it 3 out of 4 stars. In fact, if it weren’t for the numerous errors, I would give the book a full rating.
A lot of my rating is due to the way the characters are written. Lucinda, for example, is a simple woman, due to being kept at home by her father, but she is neither naïve nor stupid. Rather, she’s portrayed as being curious and eager to learn, albeit a bit timid about asserting herself. In fact, a lot of the book hinges on her curiosity and good nature leading her to try what her doctor suggests.
That’s not to say that Myers portrays her father as a villain. Instead, he’s portrayed as someone stuck in his ways, yet willing to give in to his daughter. In fact, this is a running motif throughout the book: no one is truly evil. As such, there weren’t any true villains, something that I actually thought was quite charming. This also contributed to the rating as it made me forget about the incident that starts the novel, but not so much that I wasn’t satisfied.
However, it also left me frustrated. While I solved the case early on, the lack of conflict meant that I didn’t really have any incentive to read the book all that much. The pacing was slow and the interactions between several groups of characters, like Lucinda and Naomi Carter, the mother of the boy who found the murder victim at the book's beginning, to be lacking in some way or another.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book. I very much did, and I had a fun time reading it. I just wish that there was something more to keep me turning the page as I read. It would mean a longer novel, but I would not have minded that at all.
The book also needs another extensive round of editing. While it’s readable and coherent, the lost star in its rating reflects just how many errors I came across. They weren’t glaringly obvious, but they were still a lot.
All of this being said, Paddington’s Inner Circle is a good read for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Readers who enjoy books about small towns and the connections within will no doubt find something to enjoy about this one. I certainly did.
Happy reading, everyone!
paddington's inner circle
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