Just enough inspiration from well-known favorites like Outlander to intrigue, with enough original fun to thrive on its own – looking forward to the next books in the series
As a sometimes rabid Outlander lover (ok, all the time, I have the scotch thistle wedding ring…), I am a sentimentalist who gives a chance to most any book that even hints at similarity in theme or setting. More often than not they are too fan-fic, preposterous, or outright copycat and quickly land on the DNF shelf. I was intrigued by A Rip Through Time, but went in expecting to be disappointed; this is my first Kelley Armstrong and I admittedly had judged her book by its cover, specifically her other book covers that scream a bit too much vamp romance for my normal taste. Thankfully, intrigue won and I was happily transported to Armstrong’s gothic Edinburgh and cannot wait to go back.
As time travel stories go, the beginning isn’t earth shattering – seemingly street smart big city homicide detective Mallory Atkinson visits her dying grandmother in a foreign city, makes a dumb choice to follow strange noise in dark alleys at night,, and is attacked by the retail-rage bad guy. The meat of the story begins when she wakes up in the same alley and finds it is no longer 2019, and she is definitely not in her own body.
The bones of this tale are a bit formulaic, with quite a few very convenient pieces moving the story forward. The body she lands in belongs to Catriona, who happens to work for the part-time crime solving undertaker Dr. Duncan Gray. The good not-real doctor lives with his widowed sister Isla, who’s social conscience and women’s rights views are progressive before their time. A murder spree has just begun, so she has landed in a scene perfect for her existing skills, despite her being completely unfamiliar with the customs of 1869 Victorian Scotland.
Where A Rip in Time wins is taking a tried and true base formula and not getting sucked into a story that feels like a template. The foundation may be predictable, but the story built on top of it is colorful (a special accomplishment given the setting is creepily gothic and dark), layered, and believable. The setting of scenes is also where Kate Hanford’s narration really starts to shine, with a tone and emphasis that is like a welcoming painting or a creepy gothic build up in all the right places. Her soft comedic timing is also perfect in her portrayal of Mallory’s trial and error moments of trying to find the correct Victorian words for what she is trying to say.
The other place both Armstrong and Hanford both pull out the stops is creating compelling characters that you can’t help but care about quite quickly.
Mallory is a wee bit too lucky in a few places, but overall is perfectly flawed – she is smart enough to keep herself alive and with a roof over her head, but doesn’t just magically fit into a completely foreign place ala Claire Fraser (just because I love it doesn’t mean it’s perfect). Duncan is a bit death-obsessed and socially awkward, but manages to not become the creepy undertaker cliche and is charming in a quirky sort of way. As a 19th century character written by a 21st century female author, Isla’s character could have been overshadowed by modern girl power but she remains a woman with thoughts before her time, but not inappropriate for her time. She’s progressive and giving but also pragmatic, which lends just the right amount of drama to her relationship with Mallory. The slow boil starting between Mallory and Duncan is predictable because it’s always going to be a guy who keeps the girl in the past, but the Mallory/Isla friendship is one to look forward to in future books. I also sincerely hope Kate Hanford gets to bring these voices to life again.
As with a lot of time travel books where the TT is really more of a means to an end rather than the star, my only major issue is the lack of attention to the “how” and potential impacts. Mallory does ponder what must be going on in 2019, where the real Catriona has presumably taken over her life, but this thought causes a pretty minimal level of stress given how much chaos the Victorian petty thief could be causing. She also doesn’t always succeed at bringing her modern forensics knowledge to the past without what should be pretty large ramifications. Every time I read a book of this genre, I think of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 – I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it but if you have, you know (and if you haven’t, you really, really should).
For once, I’m thrilled to be drawn into an Outlander comparison that really isn’t much at all like Outlander. I’m even more thrilled that this is a series debut, because I’m looking forward to spending more time with these unique characters in their mysterious gothic world.
A Rip Through Time
Narrator: Kate Hanford
May 31, 2022
Historical Fiction, Crime, Time Travel
Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.