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==Synopsis of the book:==
A weekend away is ruined when one of the guests Gwendolen body is found in the lake. The previous night after Dinner a fellow guest Isobel made a very cutting and hurtful remark in front of all the assembled guests about the dead girl. Gwendolen left the group alone and went out into the night. Once the death is discovered the consensus of opinion is that Isobel is responsible for the girl's actions. One of the guests suggests rather than blame Isobel and cast aspersions on her that they give her the opportunity to redeem herself by delivering a letter to Gwendolen's mother and accompany her back from Scotland.
Isobel reluctantly agrees to this task as it is agreed if she does it the matter will never be discussed again. Being a good friend Lady Vespasia agrees to accompany her as they take whatever transport they can to find Mrs Naylor in the wilds of North Scotland and with it being the mid nineteenth century this is indeed going to be a real challenge as winter is setting in.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I found this an entertaining and quite absorbing period adventure novel. It certainly was not quite what I expected and that was a bonus as I do struggle as a rule with novels that tell a story of by gone days, I think it is the language they use and the fact that society is totally different now. However to give the author her due I found this was not a problem as everything was explained clearly and through concise and very eloquent descriptions I have no problems understanding and enjoying the story.
This is just my second experience of the work of Anne Perry and I have to say in this short time she had very much impressed me with her writing from the late Victorian period. She has already published 58 novels, the majority of which have been set in Victorian times and I find elegance in her work that is lacking from many other authors.
My reason for selecting this novel was firstly I wanted to read another story from this author and secondly I had enjoyed the previous offering 'A Christmas Visitor' and I was keen to read another in this series. So I picked the first one, this time, which was published in 2003. The book was supported by an excellent summary on the inside cover that really set the scene well and made me want to read the story as soon as I got it home.
To be honest initially I found this book a little hard to get into. As it started with several guests enjoying a Dinner Party on their weekend away. Nothing difficult there maybe but there seemed to me at this stage lots of characters very quickly thrust upon the reader and I struggled to remember much about each one. It was only once the unfortunate death was announced that I started to piece together exactly who was who and get acquainted with their personalities and mannerisms.
Once that had happened I started to enjoy the story. I liked the ingenious idea of the challenge to clear her name by Isobel having the deliver the dead girls last letter to her mother. Remembering two things, travel was very difficult in those days to the outskirts of North Scotland and in those days' appearances and what people thought of you in society was of paramount importance. Although I was quite surprised that Lady Vespasia volunteered to accompany Isobel on this long, hard and dangerous task.
As the journey unfolded the two travellers quickly discovered this was going to be far harder than they imagined, as Mrs Naylor was not at the address she was supposed to be. Instead she had moved another 150 miles into the middle on no-where. As a result not only did they have to travel by train, but carriage, boat and pony to cross the bleak but beautiful countryside.
I found the story to be cleverly written and absorbing as there was always a sense of both mystery and suspense as to what would happen next within it. Although I enjoyed the fact Lady Vespasia was working out why Gwendolen had died as she did.
With a well-worked and totally acceptable conclusion to the story.
The only real negative I had about the story and it probably is reflected in the fact I enjoyed this book was its length. I have an awful habit of checked once I have started to read a book how many pages it had. This one had 160 so I expected a story of about that length, so when it finished on page 124 I felt a little short changed by it. Instead for the next 36 pages you had a long introduction into the author's next novel. A good way of selling the next book admittedly but not what I really wanted at all. That said I did think in the 124 pages the author dealt with the subject matter well and I don't think she needed to expand or elaborate on anything.
The characters I thought were very good, with the main two being Isobel and Lady Vespasia. I found them to have good and interesting personalities. With excellent descriptions and slowly revealing more about their characters I grew to respect and understand them and even empathise with them. I liked the fact Lady Vespasia was always thinking and wondering about the suspicious death and trying to understand what really happened that night and why.
What has impressed and surprised me so far in the two novels by this author is, they are not simply about love and well to do ladies looking for a husband of the right breeding. Before I read these that was my mistaken assumption, these books have very enjoyable stories and lots of mystery to enjoy as well. And while I'm not completely hooked yet I am sure I will read another from this author in the next few months.
I found this quite an absorbing and enjoyable novel and would certainly recommend it to all those who like books from the Victorian era or an interesting adventure story. It was a journey of in many ways discovery and I thought the author was excellent at describing just how tough the trip was. It was quite a short story but one that was always well written and quite compelling.
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
@CPTDANIELS March 2010