After a lot of waffling, this was the book I chose first for Mary Stewart Reading Week, hosted by Anbolyn of Gudrun's Tights. What finally decided me was the setting: the Isle of Skye. Right now cool mists and rain sound wonderful to me in hot drought-locked Houston. And then the brief back-cover blurb on my Hodder edition was very intriguing:
Gianetta is hoping for a tranquil interlude on the Isle of Skye. Bruised by divorce from her writer husband, she seeks solace in the island's savage beauty. But a vicious murder throws the community into confusion - and then her ex-husband arrives . . .
The blurb isn't quite accurate, but at least it doesn't give too much of the plot away. Gianetta Drury doesn't go to Skye to recover from the divorce, but as a holiday from her demanding job as a mannequin with a major fashion house, and to escape London in the frenzy of the Coronation festivities. When she arrives at the Camas Fhionnnaridh Hotel on the south side of the island, she finds her ex-husband Nicholas already in residence, along with other guests who spend their time fishing and climbing.
I liked Gianetta from the start, and this book has many familiar Mary Stewart elements (like a brooding sarcastic hero). But I have to admit that I didn't really enjoy it, though it kept me reading to the end, to find the solution to the murder. Mary Stewart clearly knows and loves Skye. Like Dorothy L. Sayers in Gaudy Night, she includes a note of apology for altering some of the terrain in aid of her plot. Her descriptions of the scenery, the mountains that ring the horizon, the river winding down to the sea loch - as always they are lyrical. The mountains in particular play an important part in her plot, one that I found really difficult to follow. There were too many mountains, too many names, and quite a lot of time was spent going up and down them. There were too many people staying at the hotel. I probably should have made a list, but I gave up trying to keep them straight. I found the murders in this book very unpleasant, and when the motive was finally revealed, I had a hard time taking it seriously. In the end there was a major plot element left unexplained (how one intended victim escaped), which annoyed me. I also had some reservations about the romantic resolution and feel strongly that both parties need some serious counseling.
I see that other people have chosen this book, including my hostess (eep), and I'm looking forward to reading other reviews, which may help me appreciate it more. In the meantime, I think I'm off to the Crystal Cave.