In the “Madame Tulip” universe, this story’s a winner. Ahern’s comedy writing is becoming more polished and creative. Not a hilarious, gut-wrenching-laugh-type comedy. Just a constant feeding of clever and original Irish-style wit, often tossed off as setting or character description, that adds to the entertainment of the read. The entertainment value of this writing depends on the quality of the humour, the number of jokes per page and the careful placing of the comedy so it never gets in the way of the suspense. Ahern has always been good at keeping his funny and serious material separated. “Serpent’s Tree” shows a definite increase in the use of this technique, and it’s hard to quantify, but it seems to be just plain funnier.
For example, he manages to make the opening scene descriptions interesting enough that we want to read them. Of course, he’s describing Dublin, so he has an edge on most writers. How does he do this? Well, he doesn’t just have an office door. He has an office door with a sign that reads, “Office. No Credit so F-off.” When have you ever heard a scene described as an “oddly careless archaeologist’s dig?” And then the crowning detail: a band called the “Dead Hamsters.”
Ahern also has the ability to make a point but not belabour it. He uses an actor’s precarious work situation as a driving factor in the plot without drowning us in angst about it. This is comedy, after all.
On the serious side, the inner conflict in the main character about her occult abilities takes a step further in this story, adding another level to the complexity of the situation and making us want to know what happens in the next installment.
Add to that an excruciating final conflict that will have claustrophobes writhing in nightmares for months, and you have a darned good read.
The best book in the series so far. Highly recommended.
(5 / 5)