Cezanne’s Quarry by Barbara Corrado Pope

Posted January 16, 2010 by Sara | Novel Novice 0 Comments


As some of you may know (or will come to know), I also write the Portland Books Examiner column on Examiner.com and will sometimes share my articles here on Novel Novice. Today, I want to direct you to my latest book review for Cezanne’s Quarry by Barbara Corrado Pope. Though not a YA book, I would definitely recommend it to both teens and adult readers.

The book is set in France in 1885, and follows a judge as he investigates the murder of a young woman. One of the primary suspects in this case is the artist Paul Cezanne. Here’s some of what I had to say in my review:

The beauty of Cezanne’s Quarry is the way Pope has seamlessly woven historical facts into the text of her novel. The transition is seamless, and it’s only after you’ve absorbed the information that you realize you’ve just learned something new.

The difference is stark when compared to how Brown uses factual research in his novels. The information in his books tends to come out in a lecture – often in the dialogue from a character like Professor Robert Langdon (The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons and The Lost Symbol).

Whereas it’s obvious you’re being fed factual information with Brown’s writing, Pope works it into her novel with subtlety. It becomes part of the narrative and it doesn’t stand out and scream “this is a lesson.” The history only enhances the story and gives it a more realistic quality.

Pope also successfully keeps the reader guessing where the mystery will go next. She’s written the novel in such a way that you are with Martin for the entire journey as he uncovers the mystery. You’re never one step ahead of him, and he’s never one step ahead of you. In fact, it’s only as Martin himself begins to suspect the true killer that the reader comes to the same conclusion. It’s also a delightful twist that makes the ending truly satisfying.

You can read the rest of my review at Portland Books Examiner.

In the meantime, here is the official synopsis, followed by the book trailer:

August 1885. Aix-en-Provence.

The body of a beautiful woman lies on the floor of a sun-baked quarry, a fragment of painted canvas shivering on a thorny branch nearby. Could Paul Cézanne be Solange Vernet’s killer?

The novice investigating magistrate Bernard Martin has only two weeks to prove that her murderer is either the artist, who is obsessively in love with Vernet, or her long-time paramour, Charles Westerbury, an English geologist with a shady past. To make the case against Cézanne or the Darwinian scientist, Martin must confront the ghosts of his own past as he struggles to understand the motives that led to Solange Vernet’s violent end.

Was her fatal strangulation merely a crime of passion? Or did she die because she dared to step outside the traditional bounds of womanhood?

The early paintings of Paul Cézanne offer crucial clues to solving the crime.

For the comments: Have you read Cezanne’s Quarry? Do you think it’s something you might read?

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Sara | Novel Novice
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