The Net Galley description: A February, 1927. The remains of an unidentified middle-aged man are found beneath the snow in the grounds of Maxstead Court, home of the wealthy Scroope family. Meanwhile, Margaret Rees-Talbot is preparing for her wedding to the Rev. Symon Scroope – to the disapproval of some residents of the small market town of Folbury, who think it’s too soon after the death of Margaret’s father Osbert, found drowned in his bath a few months previously. An accident – or was there more to it than that?
Before he died, Osbert had been writing an account of his experiences as a soldier during the Second Boer War. But what really happened in South Africa back in 1902? Could there be a connection to his death?
This appealed to the mystery lover in me. The period, the setting, the back story – all very romantic and exotic. So I requested it and read it.
What a disappointment. The plot lacked immediacy and tension. The narration was omniscient, and the reader was jerked from one character’s perspective to another. This is not to say that an omniscient narration is necessarily erratic, but in this instance it is. The reader doesn’t get the opportunity to know any character well enough to care about any of them. When a reader doesn’t care about the characters, he (or she) isn’t going to care about the story.
The story itself dragged. Then, it seemed, the author decided she needed to wrap it up. So, there is a big rush to the end, which, even then, gets bogged down in a lengthy, overly detailed letter. The reader gets a confession and a leap in time, leaving the resolution up in the air.
As to the period’s setting, there just isn’t a feel of the 20’s. I was jarred by the use of the word “neurotic” by one character to describe another. Would this word commonly be used there and then? I Googled it; its clinical use in psychiatry dates from 1923. This book is set in 1927; would it have been in everyday use then as it is now? At any rate, the atmosphere just wasn’t there.
On the upside, reading a book like this makes one appreciate a well-written book.