After a great cover blurb and a zealous letter from the editor, I was ready to swept away by The House Between Tides. Its praise promised more than once to be like Rebecca, and the setting of a crumbling mansion isolated on a tidal island sounded like another Eel Marsh House.
The set-up was good. Modern day Hetty escapes hectic city life to investigate the ruin of an ancestral mansion she’s recently inherited. The Outer Hebrides provide colorful characters and sweeping views. A skeleton has been found on the property, halting all potential work on the structure, which is nearly fallen in.
The book then switches to the point-of-view the mistress of the house in the early 1900s. Beatrice married the successful painter Theo Blake (Hetty’s ancestor) and soon found her husband’s peculiarities more than just artistic whims.
Despite the wild setting and outline for a mystery, the book deflates about half way through. Hetty is under pressure from all sides to make up her mind and she takes much too long to stand up for herself in any way.
Beatrice has a bit more backbone initially but it too dissolves into a will-they-won’t-they romance. Her husband’s big secret is easily discernible from the outset and so it’s a tired plot point by the time of the reveal. If anything, setting is its strongest point. Here, Beatrice meets a tenant in her humble home.
Beside her, the black-and-white collie thumped its tail in greeting. Pan lids rattled on top of a Raeburn, steam rising to lose itself amongst countless socks perched like starlings on a drying rail above. ~Loc. 498
The setting is, in its way, like Rebecca, but there the similarity ends. The house isn’t Manderley. Neither woman is as naive as the second Mrs. deWinter or as vengeful as Rebecca or Mrs. Danvers. There is no lynchpin Ben or cad Jack Favell. There is no pit-of-your-stomach sickening dread at every mention of Max.
The conflict felt contrived in order to get from point to point, rather than a natural progression for each character. Admittedly, I might have enjoyed this one more if my expectations were not so high at the outset. Still, the book had weaknesses even without comparison to a classic.
Read via NetGalley. Thank you to Atria Books for the e-galley access.
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Atria Books (August 2, 2016)
Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 1.1 inches