1927, and Constance Bowen, a middle-aged widow is determined to make a change from her life in Pinner. So when she sees an advert for a companion to an ailing art-dealer in Tuscany, she jumps at the chance. The remote castle set in the Tuscan hills seems to be ideal, but it isn’t long before it’s clear that the most remote locations can be the most dangerous.
As phantom music plays at night, and people move around in the shadows, Constance starts to doubt the wisdom of her choice to relocate to Italy. As she starts to make mistakes, and the health of her charge worsens, is it possible that she is losing her grip on reality?
And the award for one of the most difficult books to review properly on this blog goes to…
This is a beautifully written book. The Tuscan countryside and the Italian setting is brought vividly to life and the characters, most notably Constance, the narrator, are some of the most real creations that I have read about for a long time. The tension builds slowly towards the conclusion and…
The thing is, this isn’t really a review of the book, as I’m not the right person to review it. Why did I pick it? Well, let’s have a look at the phrase “a gripping classic suspense novel in the tradition of Agatha Christie”.
Because for all the beautiful writing and character design, this is no Agatha Christie novel. The villain of the piece is obvious and there aren’t any real surprises in the plot – I kept reading hoping there would be a real twist, but alas no. There isn’t even… no, that would be a spoiler. But this isn’t that sort of book – the reader may well go in expecting something different from what it is, and may well be disappointed with the plot at least, as I was.
This is yet another case of a book being mis-marketed by its publicity department. It’s one of two phrases that publicity uses to sell books, the misuse of “locked room” and the misuse of “in the style of Agatha Christie.”
I’d recommend this for the characters, the setting, the snapshot of between-the-wars Italy, all of these are absolutely top-notch and engrossing. But if you are a fan of the classic mystery, which is probably why you are here, then I can’t recommend it on that count. Sorry.
So really it is more like an Anita Brookner or a Mary Wesley perhaps? Or a Daphe du Maurier even? Where in Tuscany is it set by the way? Or is it more of that generic Anglos in Italy “Chiantishire” guff that I find so annoying (as a lad whose family is from next-door Umbria) 😉
Not read any of those authors. It’s near enough to Florence that the characters can visit it and get home in the same day. And yes, most of the characters are English who have moved there, bar the nephew in law who is Italian and a member of the fascist party. I can’t judge on whether it’s true to life or stereotypes – I’d recommend you take a look, if I’d enjoyed the book more…
Not crime authors but Hotel Du Lac by Brookner and Cammomile Lawn by Wesley are fine books about Brits of a certain class in the past. But sounds I’ll give this one a miss 😁