August 31, 2009

Sepulchre by Kate Mosse

I have to admit I am a bit overwhelmed writing my review of Sepulchre by Kate Mosse. Luckily I am on vacation so I have all the time I need to give it a go. Sepulchre is over 735 pages long not including the Reader's Notes and Sepulchre Tour pages. Very daunting number of pages to any reader I should imagine...and then writing a credible review that encompasses all the themes...well you can see why I'm daunted! The book was very seductive though and breezed by on a tense plot, shortish chapters and intrepid characters. Sepulchre blends mystery and crime with gothic drama and a hint of romance.

I'm a big fan of timeslip novels...although usually I find a character from one period is more interesting or stronger in voice than the character in the other time period. I thought the main characters from the past and present were equally as strong in Sepulchre, though more of the story is given over to the past. Leonie Vernier is our heroine from the late 1900s, a young girl of seventeen who demonstrates a naive willfulness that causes death and harm to those she loves. Eventually she triumphs over evil at great cost to herself...unable to rest peacefully in death as her story remains untold, she begins to haunt her distant relative Meredith Martin, after Meredith indulges in an impulsive tarot reading while researching Debussy on her long awaited trip to Paris. 2007 - Meredith Martin is come to Paris to finalize her research on Claude Debussy, although this is not her only motive for visiting France... she is determined to discover her ancestral legacy using a lone photograph she has been given of a sepia soldier. After a strange tarot card reading she begins to have frightening dreams, echos from the past, which only become more intense while visiting a mysterious hotel in southern France called the Domaine de le Cade.

Sepulchre is the second book in Mosse's Languedoc Trilogy, very loosely connected to the first in the trilogy, Labyrinth, although focusing on different time periods and events, as well as varying in tone and storyline. Sepulchre relies more upon dramatic gothic and supernatural elements to create tension, while Labyrinth trends more to the spiritual and mythical. The books have entirely different cast of characters. If you do not care for heavy gothic overtones (a malignant oppressiveness), nor have an interest in the symbolism of tarot or suggestion of supernatural patterns, repetition in music, then this is probably not the book for you...but I very much enjoy dark, mysterious novels and really was captivated by this one!! I would venture to say I preferred Sepulchre over Labyrinth, much more drawn to the features and tone of this more recent read. Reading Sepulchre was like putting together pieces of a complex puzzle, knowledge revealed little by little.
Mosse does not give more weight to the research than the characters or plot and this is an impressive feat. There was so much description given about the areas in France that the book is set in, Rennes-les-Bains, Paris, as well as Carcassonne, and patterns in music, symbolism of tarot but these do not distract from the plot which flows along seamlessly in parallel with all the details. I can't imagine the amount of research Mosse must have put together...but you can get an idea of her sources by perusing the Sepulchre Tour inclusion at the back of the novel. This is a book to put down and ponder before greedily snatching up again.
The third book in the Languedoc trilogy is The Winter Ghosts to be released in hardcover this fall.
My Rating: 4.5

Suggested Recommendations for Related Reading with Gothic Elements:
Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin


  1. I read Labyrinth and didn't mind it. One day I will managed to read this book.

  2. It was sitting there on my bookshelf ever since the paperback was released...I spontaneously picked it up knowing I would be taking with me on vacation and dedicate myself to it. Wish I had read it sooner but perfect spooky read for the summer!

  3. I only skimmed the review, because this book is sitting on the shelf waiting to be reviewed, but I had no idea it was part of a trilogy! I have the first two books, but not the third, I guess I should keep my eyes out for it.

  4. I had no idea either until I saw the summary for The Winter Ghosts and realized it was the third book in the trilogy. The books are not related to each other except for the story settings being based in the Languedoc region of France.

  5. I recently purchased "Labyrinth" at a thrift store and am glad to know about this book too! We recently shared comments about "The Tenth Gift" on Good Reads! Hope you're having a great weekend!

  6. Absolutely fantastic. For me to read a novel like Sepulchre in one week was amazing. Couldn't put it down. Now awaiting library holds on her other books.