He’s billed as another Michener, but Edward Rutherfurd’s mammoth, albeit remarkably energetic, historical novel bears more resemblance to the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Following the destiny of several families whose fate intermingles over centuries, London manages to mention virtually every road, bridge, church, neighborhood, monument, historic building, and significant ruin in the city in its captivating 829 pages. As a storyteller, Rutherfurd goes for brisk, often bawdy tales. Each details some curiosity in English history — how 17th-century London juries confounded Puritan death-penalty laws by refusing to convict adulterers, for example, or how Scotland Yard got its name. A-

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