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A Dark Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine
Barbara Vine is also known as the crime writer, Ruth Rendell and in 'A Dark Adapted Eye' she writes a mystery that keeps the reader intrigued from the start. The style is that of a Victorian mystery rather than the fast paced modern crime thrillers. The reader is given hints and clues gradually as the story unfolds but it is not until almost the final chapter that we learn the whole story. There are still questions that the narrator tries to work through even after the reader finds out what happened. It is a rather old fashioned story and its problems are those of the time and these would not have become problems today in my opinion so it is important to read the story knowing the period it is set in.
I initially found it quite complicated to sort out the cast of characters as we meet them through Faith's recollections but as the story unfolds their connections become more obvious. The story begins with the death of Faith's Aunt Vera but initially we are not sure why the family knows this is the day she is going to die and why her death would be in the newspapers. The mystery begins on the very first page and snippets of information are fed to the reader as Faith remembers her aunt's and their times together.
The story is told by a narrator Faith who is remembering things from her childhood and then on into adulthood. Faith is the daughter of John and Vranni who are not especially well off and live in London. John's sister, Vera is married to Gerald and together they go to India where they have a son, Francis. A much younger sister Eden is left when their parents die and Vera returns to England to live in the family home and bring up Eden and her own son, Francis who is sent to boarding school leaving Gerald in India.
Faith spends holidays and periods of time during the war with her aunt Vera, Eden and her cousin Francis when he is home from boarding school. As Eden grows up she is doted on by Vera, thoroughly indulged and encouraged to be rather superior. She is extremely beautiful and Faith is rather overwhelmed by Eden's looks and snobbish behaviour.
War comes and the gorgeous Eden joins the Wrens. Faith is sent to her Aunt Vera's when the bombing in London gets most intense. Young Francis when he is home runs rings around his mother and teases Faith in a typically adolescent manner. The worse francis behaves the harder Vera is on Faith but she has little choice but to accept this or upset her father as Vera would complain about her behaviour to Faith's parents. Faith's father, John could see nothing wrong in either of her sisters but Faith's mother was not impressed with either of them or their snobby attitude and this was a cause of tension in Faith's household.
Helen Chartteriss was a half sister of John. Vera and Eden and seems to provide the 'normal' balanced point of view of the family. She had married 'well' and Vera was impressed with her status in society and her large house but this seems not to have affected Helen as much as it does Vera. Helen and her family provide added recollections to Faith's own memories.
Faith and Helen together visit Gerald, Vera's husband, in a nursing home and often discuss Vera and Eden and their memories of these aunts of Faith's. Over the years the sons of Vera Francis and then later James also play a part in the story.
James' arrival is also very mysterious and causes much consternation in the family. In fact James is the cause of the eventual falling between Eden and Vera.
The memories of Helen and Faith are stirred because someone is writing a book about Vera's death and is asking family members for any anecdotes about her. The story is one of a family and their secrets in a time of high moral values. Meanwhile the country is going through an awful war which meant sacrifice of lives and other things such as rationing and evacuation of children from their families and air raids in the cities. The story is set in this time and the values and morals of this time are important to the story. It is an interesting historical piece as well as a clever story. It is NOT a modern crime thriller and if that is what you are expecting you may be disappointed but it is an intriguing mystery involving a family with secrets set in the early part of the 20th century.
I'm not sure where the title fits with the story but it was an easy read with enough of a story to keep me interested. This was another book I picked up through bookcrossing which is a wonderful way of finding books I wouldn't normally buy - I found out about book crossing on either Dooyoo or Ciao - thanks for widening my reading opportunities! The book is available on Amazon at various prices.
This review may be published elsewhere under my name.