Redfern, Elizabeth 1950-
REDFERN, Elizabeth 1950-
Born October 29, 1950, in Cheshire, England; married; children: a daughter. Education: University of Nottingham, B.A.; Ealing College, postgraduate degree (librarian); University of Derby, postgraduate teaching certificate. Hobbies and other interests: Playing violin.
Novelist. Also works with programs for the unemployed and in skills training; former chartered librarian and adult education lecturer in English.
The Music of the Spheres (novel), G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2001.
Auriel Rising (novel), G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2004.
The Music of the Spheres was adapted for audio cassette, read by Tim Curry, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2001.
British author Elizabeth Redfern has written two dark, suspenseful historical novels set in London. The Music of the Spheres and Auriel Rising are works featuring complex plots and multifaceted characters. Both novels navigate known political, social, and scientific events as well as the more elusive interpersonal and secret dealings of ordinary and famous individuals. The novels showcase Redfern's skill at crafting intricate plotlines and creating the dense, foreign atmosphere of old London.
A father must conduct his own search for the killer of his fourteen-year-old daughter in The Music of the Spheres, a story that begins in early 1795. Jonathan Absey is employed at the English Home Office, where he searches the mail for evidence of spying amidst rumors that there will be war with France. But when his estranged daughter appears to be one of several red-haired prostitutes who have been strangled, he neglects this work to do his own investigation. The police, Absey discovers, are not much interested in dead prostitutes. When a group of French astronomers are implicated in the crime, Absey looks for access to their circle through his gay half-brother Alexander Wilmot, a mathematician and astronomer. Absey can offer Wilmot a service in return: destroying documents about his homosexuality that could be used in a criminal case against him.
The Music of the Spheres earned many strong reviews. Although a Publishers Weekly critic concluded that "less would have been more," Chicago Tribunereviewer Jessie Milligan remarked that Redfern has "a gift for creating vivid images of 18th Century London" and that her story "is as spooky as a Jack the Ripper tale, but … more intellectually engaging." The "nicely intricate plot" was praised by USA Today reviewer Deirdre Donahue, who commented, "It is Redfern's ability to bring each scene, each character alive that makes this such toothsome reading." In the Denver Post, Robin Vidimos remarked, "Redfern builds her story with subtlety and care, and while the resulting plot is complex it is not muddled." Vidimos found The Music of the Spheres to be a "wonderful first novel."
In Auriel Rising, Redfern takes the reader to London in 1609, where musician Ned Warriner has returned after two years in hiding. Having assisted in the escape of a Catholic prisoner during the religious persecution taking place under Protestant King James, Warriner is drawn back to the city by the discovery that Kate, the woman he loves, is married but has likely borne his child. His problems are multiplied when he finds a letter addressed to an unknown Auriel that promises the existence of a formula for making gold. The letter makes him a target for a variety of powerful and villainous individuals.
Reviewers found much in common between Redfern's two novels. Publishers Weekly reviewer Jeff Zaleski described Auriel Rising as "richly atmospheric but overstuffed" and said, "Redfern's strength is in recreating a morally corrupt world obsessed with the letter's mystical-sounding abstractions." According to Joseph M. Eagan in Library Journal, the author's "vivid characterizations and colorful descriptions of a squalid London … compensate for the novel's anachronistic contemporary dialog." But in Booklist, Carrie Bissey reflected that Redfern "makes a complicated web of allegiances and betrayals accessible and interesting." In the New York Times Book Review, the novel was called "a treat" by Janice P. Nimura, who enjoyed the author's originality in drawing "a troubled city constantly reinventing itself, peopled by souls no less changeable."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2001, Brad Hooper, review of The Music of the Spheres, p. 1595; February 15, 2004, Carrie Bissey, review of Auriel Rising, p. 1043.
Chicago Tribune, September 3, 2001, Jessie Milligan, review of The Music of the Spheres, Tempo section, p. 6.
Denver Post, July 29, 2001, Robin Vidimos, review of The Music of the Spheres, p. F2.
Library Journal, June 1, 2001, Laurel Bliss, review of The Music of the Spheres, p. 218; March 15, 2004, Joseph M. Eagan, review of Auriel Rising, p. 109.
New York Times Book Review, July 4, 2004, Janice P. Nimura, review of Auriel Rising, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, May 29, 2001, review of The Music of the Spheres, p. 45; February 16, 2004, Jeff Zaleski, review of Auriel Rising, p. 150.
USA Today, August 30, 2001, Deirdre Donahue, review of The Music of the Spheres, p. D7.
Virginia Quarterly Review, winter, 2002, review of The Music of the Spheres, p. A23.*