Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Review: Death of a Musketeer by Sarah D'Almeida

I've read quite a few pastiches based on Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers, so I have some tolerance to the fact that they rarely meet the quality of the original. Death of a Musketeer, however, is a risky venture from the start: instead of continuing the story or covering the "lost years", the author sets out to rewrite the original, claiming that Dumas altered the story and she has found new evidence of what actually happened to the four heroes. The result is mediocre at best and changes the characters beyond recognition and likeability.

The book begins with the musketeers giving chase, for no real reason, to a musketeer that they do not recognise and whom they soon find dead in an alley (murdered in a manner that makes it feel that the musketeers must have fallen behind in their chase much more than the story lets you understand). By coincidence, the dead musketeer turns out to be a spitting image of the queen herself and the musketeers set out to hide the body, so as not to cause chaos, and attempt to find out what has happened. Soon, another body appears, and the mystery gets more critical.

Whereas the story has potential to be a nice little murder mystery, it is brought down by the author's lack of knowledge of the source material. Despite the author's claim that she reads the novel at least once a year, there's no evidence of that on these pages: characters' appearances are wrong, the addresses where they live are off and the characters themselves don't behave like they should (or logically, for that matter). Furthermore, the author has invented completely new first names for many of the heroes, for reasons that are never explained. The plot is filled with co-incidences and unexplained turns of events (cannot really write about them, as they would spoil the story) as well as bad writing. Point in fact, pistoles are referred to as pistols - it makes it funny to imagine people handing over wheellock pistols to each other, but it also very annoying.

With a bit more respect towards the original and more meticulous approach to plotting and writing, this could have been a pleasurable read. As it is, I cannot recommend this to either a fan of swashbuckling adventure or Alexandre Dumas. If you can forget the connections with the Three Musketeers (relatively easy, given the completely different characterisations and even first names), the story is more readable. But the language problems and plot holes still remain.