A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong features a fascinating premise, but the execution falls a little flat.
Mallory, a 21st-century Canadian detective, mysteriously swaps bodies with Catriona, a 19th-century Scottish housemaid, because the two women were strangled on the same spot exactly 150 years apart. This intriguing concept only takes the novel so far, though, because the whys and hows are barely investigated — especially frustrating when Mallory is surrounded by cutting-edge scientists while trapped in the past! And with this being the first in a series, I would’ve liked to see more attention paid to the fantasy elements in this installment.
The book also drags, with the investigation — into who tried to kill Catriona and who is killing people now that Mallory has arrived — only truly getting underway in the second half. Contributing to this agonizing slowness is Mallory’s dry, expositional narration. She tends to go on lengthy internal monologues, only sparsely studded with moments of action and dialogue — though there’s the occasional moment of dry wit. Mallory over-explains her every thought process, as though the author has very little faith in her readers to make connections on their own. This, and her judgemental attitude, make Mallory a little grating.
In fact, most of the characters feel very one-note, even the de-facto love interest Dr. Gray, who is smart, aloof, and kind (when he pays enough attention to be), but not much else. And the only truly compelling character is his widowed sister Isla, who also doesn’t make an appearance until halfway through the novel. She is by far the most lively and likable character — just as smart as her brother (and even more kind), doing her own scientific research in the field of chemistry and chafing against the constraints the 19th-century placed on women.
A Rip Through Time requires a fair bit of suspension of disbelief—and I don’t mean the body-swapping or time travel. Dr. Gray is an undertaker who is doing his own research into what will one day be forensic science, and when Mallory-as-Catriona expresses interest in his work, as well as an aptitude for it, he’s more than happy to have her assist him in autopsies. What 19th-century (male) surgeon would allow his 19-year-old maid to help him examine murdered bodies??
Isla is also surprisingly progressive — she barely blinks at the mention of homosexuality, gladly hires convicted criminals for her staff, donates generously to poor immigrants, and is apparently a saint. While there were certainly open-minded people in the past, it seems very contrived that Mallory just happened to land in a house that would be so attuned to her 21st-century sensibilities.
Once the pace picks up in the second half, though, the book becomes much more compelling. Mallory, with Isla’s help (and some from Gray), takes a much more active approach to the investigation, and there are several heart-pounding moments where she has to fight for her life or is stalked through the streets. Armstrong succeeds at one of the most crucial yet difficult aspects of mysteries — dropping enough clues for readers to start putting the pieces together, while still keeping them guessing.
Though I had some complaints, the book was fine — not mind-blowing, but there is plenty of potential for the rest of the series, and many people will certainly enjoy it. It had only just started hitting its stride as it ended, so book two may be worth the read, though I dearly hope the narration is tightened up.
A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong was released on May 31, 2022, and is available wherever books are sold. Minotaur Books provided a digital galley for an honest review.
In this series debut from New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, a modern-day homicide detective finds herself in Victorian Scotland—in an unfamiliar body—with a killer on the loose.
MAY 20, 2019: Homicide detective Mallory Atkinson is in Edinburgh to be with her dying grandmother. While out on a jog one evening, Mallory hears a woman in distress. She’s drawn to an alley, where she is attacked and loses consciousness.
MAY 20, 1869: Housemaid Catriona Mitchell had been enjoying a half day off, only to be discovered that night strangled and left for dead . . . exactly one hundred and fifty years before Mallory is strangled in the same spot.
When Mallory wakes up in Catriona’s body in 1869, she must put aside her shock and adjust quickly to her new reality: life as a housemaid to an undertaker in Victorian Scotland. She soon discovers that her boss, Dr. Gray, also moonlights as a medical examiner and has just taken on an intriguing case, the strangulation of a young man, similar to the attack on herself. Her only hope is that catching the murderer can lead her back to her modern life . . . before it’s too late.
In A Rip Through Time, New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong introduces a brand-new series mixing mystery, romance, and fantasy with thrilling results.