It was the year 1912, and the Titanic disaster was making headlines the world over, but there was a tragedy occurring much closer to home for Francis Holden-Burrell that April—the death of Sir Desmond Rivest, a mere week after the Titanic sank to the bottom of the North Sea. Desmond was a much older man than Francis, a man with a wife and daughter, and though Francis wanted much more, Desmond never crossed the boundaries of their friendship. He was a man whose life had been dedicated to the search for knowledge and adventure, but he’d ever forsaken exploring an intimate relationship with Francis in spite of how much he had apparently loved his friend in return.
It’s Desmond’s parting gift to Francis that underscores how far ahead of his time that thirst for knowledge and for questioning the unknown had taken him, as the strange and mysteries object he leaves in Francis’ care sends the young man on the journey of a lifetime.
Time travelling remains one of the most enticing themes in science fiction for me because it’s a concept so filled with disastrous and wondrous possibilities. Desmond’s final gift to Francis sends him one-hundred years into the future, to a place he knows but to a when with which he is entirely unfamiliar. A Recondite Matter is a fish-out-of-water story in which Francis must rely upon the kindness of strangers in an even stranger world, but his most difficult task may be convincing antiques dealer Simon Goodwin, as well as Simon’s assistant, Pam, that he, Francis, is not insane or hallucinating and that he did, in fact, travel through time and space to arrive within their midst, and the only support Simon has to validate his story is a painting for which he’d posed a hundred years earlier that’s now in Simon’s possession.
A Recondite Matter is a novelette (just 50 pages) that felt to me as though it was chock-full of unrealized potential, not only in Francis adjusting to his new life and discovering all the things he’d missed out on over the past hundred years, but also in the development of his relationship with Simon. I was left feeling more than a little disappointed that, just as the romantic storyline began to unfold, the plot time-leapt three years into the future, to the day of their wedding, and right or wrong, I felt deprived of the chance to witness their relationship grow, as I’d become pretty invested in them up to that point.
I’m all for the mysterious and obscure, as the title of the book suggests, but I can’t guess the reasons why that one crucial element to connect the readers to this couple was left out, or why it felt as though there was a rush to finish a story that had really only just started to gain momentum, but it was what it was, and I’m left now with a sense of regret that I can’t say I liked this book as much at the end as I did at the beginning.
Maybe the time leap in the story was meant to make me feel as off balance as Francis must’ve felt when he landed in a time so different from his own, but sadly, if that’s the case, it just didn’t work for me.
Buy A Recondite Matter HERE.