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5 October 2014

hardcover, published by Hodder and Stoughton 1997.

I’ve always liked Mary Stewart’s writing. She started with what were called Romantic Thrillers, but many had a touch of fantasy as well, and I loved that combination, a romance, a murder or mystery, and fantasy, everything a reader could ask for. So I bought most of her books, in hardcover when I could afford them, and still have all I purchased baring one or two that had to be replaced for some reason. She began writing in the 1950s, and to my mind those earlier books are still mostly the best. But of her later books I really liked Thornyhold, Stormy Petrel, and Rose Cottage. And, having temporarily run out of new unread books, I’d gone back to reread all my Mary Stewart’s and to review this one. So –

Kate Herrick’s grandmother hasn’t been well, and she’s asked Kate to go from Scotland where her grandmother now lives, back to Todhall, to retrieve personal items that were accidentally left in the old cottage. Kate arrives to find that the tiny inbuilt locked hidey hole has been opened and is empty. And after that mysteries proliferate. Kate is illegitemate, her mother left home when Kate was six and is believed dead. Who was Kate’s father? Who opened the cache? Kate is being drawn back to all her old friend in Todhall each of whom has something to contribute, particular Davey Pascoe, her old schoolfriend. Then there is the mystery man who was asking around the village about Kate’s grandmother, the blanket of flowers left on her great aunt’s grave (a woman disliked if not loathed by all who’d known her.) And the evidence that someone had been digging by the old cottage. Where they burying something or digging it up, and if so what? No murders, no crimes, but a host of small mysteries important mostly to Kate only. And the author answers them all, believably, beautifully, and engagingly. This is a gentle story, well told, and evoking a quiet nostalgia for a world now gone. I do recommend Mary Stewart’s writing, for the length of time that she wrote she didn’t write a vast body of work, but it’s quality, and very well worth reading.

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