A missing child.
June 1933, and the Edevane family’s country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. Alice Edevane, sixteen years old and a budding writer, is especially excited. Not only has she worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she’s also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn’t have. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever.
An abandoned house.
Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police. She retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall but soon finds herself at a loose end. Until one day, Sadie stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.
An unsolved mystery.
Meanwhile, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane, now an old lady, leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family’s past, seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape.
I just cried my little heart out over this book, handed it to my mother in law and said “Drop what you’re doing and read it”… which she promptly did. I’m thinking of beginning a new book tonight to avoid getting a serious book hangover… I’ve lived and breathed this book for a few days now, thinking about it constantly, riddling it all out in my head. I eventually did come to the right conclusion, but only just before the characters did, and with many red herrings along the way. My fiancèe said to me last night as I was buried in the book, “I can see I’ve become second fiddle to Kate Morton…”
My initial thoughts and feelings on the book can be found here.
This is the most “mysterious” of Kate Morton’s books, only for the fact it has a police officer following up on the case. It gave me a kind of Rivers of London vibe, but mostly because of the setting and because I liked Sadie so much. I was very pleased to discover that she takes her tea the same way as me: milk and one sugar. I saw quite a bit of myself in Sadie, which made me very, very fond of her. She solved the mystery and stuck to her principles, honouring her gut feelings the whole time. I was pleased with the final moments of the novel, as so many things that I’d hoped for came true. Alice was a perfectly terrifying character, though I do with Peter was slightly more developed, because I really did like him and wanted to know more about him.
Morton is a master of place, making you feel as if you’ve been picked up and dropped into the setting. Cornwall is her specialty; in fact, all kinds of wild, windy places in England have been drawn perfectly by Morton’s loving hand. I do hope she’ll set a book in Australia at some point, but for now England is a good spot for her lovely mysteries. The scenes switch seamlessly between London and Cornwall, and between 1933 to 2003, and from character to character, who each had their own distinctive voice and perspective on the novel’s events.
The book didn’t have as much of a romance edge as her previous novels do, particularly for the modern characters (though it isn’t entirely missing) which I quite liked. It didn’t feel as obvious to me this time, which is a huge improvement on The Distant Hours, which I was very disappointed in. I kind of felt the mystery’s solution was slightly too coincidental, but the clues were there from the get go to set it up, just very cleverly hidden, though I have read that some people were unsatisfied with it.
In response to more criticisms, yes… I believe Morton can’t keep recycling her “formula” forever, because sometimes it works, and sometimes it falls disastrously flat. She’s at risk of becoming too predictable, but for me, this book wasn’t so. She’s tried her hand at the police procedural mystery here, but with her own twist, which she hasn’t done before. As for Morton being “fluff”, as she has been repeatedly described, I beg to differ. Just because something is written to be entertaining and enjoyable, and is written by a woman- because all too frequently, that label is attached to female writers, regardless of their content- doesn’t mean it isn’t good and people should feel guilty about reading it. Tight plotting, a hell of a lot of research and great characterisation and setting went into this book, and shouldn’t be ignored.
I thoroughly enjoyed the latest Kate Morton offering, and can almost forgive her for making me wait 3 years to get it! Now, I must endure the waiting game for a new book once again… or maybe I should go back and re-read some of the ones that are a bit blurry in my memory, like The Secret Keeper.
5/5 and Leo!