“That is how heavy a secret can become. It can make blood flow easier than ink.” – Patrick Rothfuss

Author Patty Lesser’s novel ‘Devouring Time’ narrates the happenings inside an old English country-house in Canada. Marcus, a solicitor from London has been entrusted with delivering a special package to the heiress of an old mansion. What happens thereafter includes the revelation of a secret treasure, relatives clamoring for their share in the riches and an unexpected death in the family. When an investigation is launched to identify the murderer, more secrets and the true nature of the family members gets revealed.

The narration in Devouring Time has a laidback approach to it, and is very much reminiscent of the posh, aristocratic mansion the story is set in. Though it’s touted as a mystery book, the novel isn’t in a hurry to introduce you to all the characters and then reveal the big mystery within the story. Art plays a major part in the narrative, what with almost all the characters being connoisseurs of classical and modern paintings. And just like how you would go about painting a fine picture; the author has taken her time in constructing the scenes and in applying the right shades and tones.

Although Marcus Tate is introduced as a core protagonist in the narration, the book actually has a bevy of colorful characters that keeps the plot moving forward. There’s nothing special about his character, but it is fun to see his life unravel and dissimilate as he interacts more with the family members of the mansion. Margaret plays the love interest to Marcus; she is also the sole character with integrity amidst her greedy relatives. Other notable characters that make an impression with their characteristics and their dialogues include Richard, Lillian, Marilyn, Victor and the stone faced but loyal butler Howard.

Actually, all the characters in this novel can be the subjects in a compelling case study about human nature. Their behavior and antics even in the midst of a tragedy shows that sometimes human beings can value personal richness and comfort over other moralistic compulsions like truth and justice. This is an interesting reveal into the human psyche and is something that the author has attempted in her earlier book A Discerning Heart as well. While the latter was set in the fantasy genre, Devouring Time has a more modern and real-life feel to it.

The book can’t be classified as just another Whodunit fiction; although the novel has all the elements of a mystery book - a huge mansion filled with a diverse array of characters, a secret room with a precious treasure, conniving characters that stand to benefit from the death of the matriarch and even a mysterious butler to boot. Devouring Time is primarily a character driven story and an introspection into the worldly compulsions that prompts us to behave in a certain manner. The mystery element merely binds the story together and keeps the reader engaged till the end.

Patty Lesser has spun a different tale based on the mold of classic mystery stories, and regular readers of hers will appreciate the different voice she has employed here.

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