My mother gave me this book, telling me that I might get a kick out of it. She was right! This book gives a new meaning to a five star rating: “amazing”… Amazing in the sense—How could this book have been published?!
I’ll admit the story had potential. When I first started it, I thought it would be like those old Catherine Cookson novels I used to love to read in my early teens. Once I was a third of the way into the story, I was embarrassed that I even made that comparison. Cookson’s books are much better written, with better storylines and good developed characters. Though I’m truly surprised that Cookson’s books are for the most part out of print, while books like this are still in circulation.
Holt’s story is a mess. Some ideas are introduced, but never fully explored. The ending’s rushed and the concluding events are never fully explained. The murderer never explains the motive behind his actions. It’s all left to conjecture by the narrator, the governess. And when you really consider all the things the murderer did, you begin to wonder how that person could have done it all without an accomplice. For example, loosening and tossing a boulder from a cliff. You also wonder what was the real motive behind those actions. Did that person have a prior claim to the house? And this suppressed hatred the murderer supposedly “felt” seems strange, when throughout the book, that person was genuinely nice and affectionate to everyone, without fault—that kind of feeling is rather hard to fake. It all seemed too easy.
Also, the book lacks historical accuracy. For instance, in Victorian times, it wasn't common for women to attend a funeral procession; only men witnessed the burial of the loved one. So for the governess to witness the body of Sir Thomas, a neighbor of her employer, being placed in a tomb is highly unlikely.
The characterization made me laugh. Connan, got to love that name, is never developed in the book, yet he’s the main heartthrob for the governess. They hardly ever speak, only a brief word to each other occasionally, but only about business. Holt develops her secondary character Peter, the neighbor next door, more fully than Connan, and because of that I almost wished that he were the leading man. At least he was entertaining. Though in all fairness Connan does have some gem lines when he suddenly professes his love:
“Should I have prepared you for the shock? … I am sorry, Miss Leigh. I thought I had managed to convey to you something of my feelings in this matter.”
“I want to marry you because I want to keep you a prisoner in my house.”
“I am a dissolute, degenerate philanderer. I am going to say was
. Because from this moment I am going to be faithful to one woman for the rest of my life.”
With a few laughs, it was an easy read, but left me ultimately unsatisfied.