I had no idea whatsoever what I was letting myself in for when I purchased this book second hand. The cover gave no real clue and the words Ultimately compelling quoted from The Times and a small description on the back of the cover were enough to get my curiosity going. I had never read Yorke before, nor had I heard of her, though I have been reading many authors recently that are new to me. I also looked up her history of publication on Amazon and was amazed to see so many books and not wanting to spoil my experience of reading it with pre-conceptions about the lady, put away research, and read the book.
The story opens with the introduction of Terry Brett, a likeable kind of rogue and opportunist, who plays a large role in the story that leads him to meeting Alice Armitage, an elderly lady uprooted by her son and his wife when her money is needed to finance their move into a huge house, though who is relegated to the coldest and most miserable portion of that house, once her finances have served their purposes.
I thought the story was going to be all about her, and though she is part and parcel of what happens in the story, this isn't her story. It's the story of circumstances that lead to murder, though telling you who gets murdered by who would really spoil the story. Suffice to say, it's a pretty convincing effort, and I must say that I did get the impression upon reading it that the author was herself maturing in years. Her portrayal of the characters in the book was rather good, and as a reader, I started to empathise or otherwise with each of them, and here, her experience of life shows quite clearly that she knows human nature. The other characters within the book were the lodgers at Alice's house, a strange couple who seemed to live life like ships in the night, both pre-occupied with their careers. Alice's daughter in law is well portrayed as ambitious and ice cold, married to Giles through ambition rather than love, and possibly the weakest character in the book is Giles himself, though the written work is believable as there are characters that are weakened by relationships that they find themselves trapped into.
On a par with Ruth Rendall, I think that the writing style is a very good one, and that she hasn't tried to trick the reader by cleverly worded mumble jumble, or time travelling backwards and forwards as other authors tend to do. It's a story that has a beginning, middle and certainly an end that I had not anticipated, although normally I am quite good at guesswork.
Based in present time, and centred in rural England, I felt genuinely familiar with the surroundings that she described and shall certainly be buying more of these books. One thought that crossed my mind was that her books would make perfect reading material for people looking for that something special to read to an elderly person, and even though the subject matter touches on infidelity and betrayal, it does so in a very mild manner. I wish I had found her writing at the time I was looking for material to read to my dad, because he would have not only enjoyed, but would have applauded her written work compared to other books that we obtained in tape form.
It's a clever book, though not complex or deep. What I felt about it was that it was at least akin to reality that most readers could easily feel comfortable with, and that the outcome of her story was worth reading the whole book. I looked forward to my nightly episodes, got involved in wanting to know what was going to happen next, and was suitably impressed with her manner of dealing with delicate relationship issues.
I shall certainly be looking forward to reading more of this author and would recommend her works as a light but refreshing read.
Buy it or borrow it ? Buy it. If you enjoy it, I am sure you will become a collector of her work, and at One Penny (new) on Amazon, I don't think you have a lot to lose.
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Time Warner Paperbacks (4 Feb 1999)