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A My Name is Alice, or Alaïs ...

The big mystery behind Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth is just how it became the number one bestseller in the UK.

Every now and again, I'll pick up the #1 to see what the fuss is about, even if it's not something that would normally appeal to me. This seemed to be a chick-lit reworking of the Da Vinci Code formula, jumping back and forth between the Crusades and today in order to solve the secrets of the Grail.

I haven’t read such ridiculously bad writing since The Celestine Prophecy. Throwing all conventional narrative wisdom to the wind (why waste time with strong verbs when there’s an entire thesaurus of clichéd adjectives and adverbs?), she’s managed to convince publishers and readers, not to mention Richard and Judy, that by throwing in a few (hundred) italicized French 101 words, she’s created compelling historical fiction. And there’s a glossary at the back. Quelle high brow.

The time-slip plot is tied together (by a time-slip knot?) by two central characters, 20th-century Alice and 13th-century Alaïs. They are both fiercely independent, with wills strong as steel … steel that must be magnetized because trouble sticks to them like tacky souveniers on a refridgerator. And they’re connected by a “gee, I think my dreams might be reincarnation memories” storyline. I hope Alanis gets to do the soundtrack to the film.

In another oh-so-subtle piece of parallel structure, the evil women (yes, there are heroines and high-class whores working against each other) both leave scratch marks on the back of their lovers, to "claim them."

Oh yes … it’s sexy too! “She moved closer so he could feel her breasts pressing against his chest through the thin silk. Despite his bad temper, he felt his body react.”

Yay! The passive voice for a sex scene. Hot. Hmm, didn’t she say something similar the page before? Oh yes …

“There was something deliberate about her movements, like a performance, but Will felt his body respond all the same.” Will’s willy is quite the reactor, eh? There’ll be no Viagra needed for this tool’s tool.

I don’t think bestsellers have to be rife with mastery of the language. But one would hope an editor (let alone a writer who is a co-founder of the Orange Award) could've come up with something better than she “shook her head to shake the maudlin thoughts away.”

Surely it must get better. 200 pages down, 500 to go. I can’t wait for the crusaders to arrive.