Generally I've found that if I find a new-to-me writer and start with their most recent book, and love that book, I'm better off not going back to their older books. Beyond Black just reinforces that opinion. I loved Wolf Hall, much to my amazement--I'm not much for historical fiction--and then even more shocking, I loved Bring Up the Bodies even more. What's that? The second book in a trilogy being even better than the first? Yes, please, and WHEN WILL THE THIRD BOOK BE OUT???
So I should have known better than to go back to earlier work. But I had Hilary Mantel's Beyond Black sitting around, gathering dust, and it seemed like a good way to see the month of October out. Bonus: getting a long-time TBR off the stack (possibly in preparation for the TBR Challenge?). The premise was right up my alley too--a psychic, a real one, and the woman who becomes her assistant travel to psychic fairs and try to live an otherwise normal life. Excellent.
Except not. I wish it had been. This could be so interesting. I enjoyed the book up to about the halfway point, and then started wondering: where is all this going? And why is Colette (the assistant) becoming so unrelentingly bitchy and one-note? I'm fine with bitchy and unlikable, if I'm shown the reasons, or at least shown some depth, but Colette is a caricature.
Alison, the psychic, is far more sympathetic and multi-faceted. Mantel makes being a psychic not a fun, glamorous job at all, but a misery of being followed by spirit guides who are far from likable and trustworthy. The public is shallow and demanding, especially after Princess Diana dies. What's more, Alison is obese, and Mantel does do a great job of showing what life is like for an overweight woman in public.
So there's great material here, but no real story, just a long, meandering book with some well-written spots and great moments of dark humor, but ultimately, kind of a mess.
So. I'll resume my hopeful wait for the final Wolf Hall book (and the PBS miniseries of the first book, due next spring) and try to forget my disappointment in this one.