The narrator is one Jessica Mayhew, a successful psychotherapist. She becomes interested in one of her patients who has recently remembered a childhood memory. He believes he saw his father kill his au pair, throwing her off a boat near the Welch coast. This vague memory has haunted his dreams for a couple of decades but is now threatening the aspiring actor with a nervous breakdown. When her patient rather abruptly seems “cured”, she goes beyond her ethical duty to further investigate the matter herself.
She ingratiates herself to the Morgan family, who have a large home overlooking the ocean. Mayhew picks up on small clues and mostly hunches to guide her through the impromptu investigation. What’s bizarre is that our narrator has almost no motivation to get involved other than curiosity. She is a rather blah and only glosses over her reasonings. As a psychiatrist she should be more analytical, more objective, and more systematic. Instead she is wishy-washy and emotionally inconsistent.
The mystery itself is much too transparent to be intriguing. Why would a brilliant scientist be interested in this riddle if the reader is long past it and doesn’t even care who did it?
The book is supposed to reminiscent of Rebecca but aside from a house, a boat and a missing person, there is no resemblance. Williams never creates any sense of foreboding, never builds any atmosphere and never gives us anyone to care about. The most sensitive descriptions come during a strange tangent in Sweden:
There’s something about the light in Stockholm. That’s what I remember about it now. I suppose most of the time the place is swathed in cloud and rain, but when I was there, the sun shone out of a clear blue sky each day. I was different from ordinary sunlight, though. It was crystal-clear, cold, and sharp, with a kind of merciless intensity that was at once exhilarating and intimidating: a northern light made of frozen wastes, tundra, and taiga, wolves and bears and caribou, not for ordinary human beings going about their daily lives in a busy city. ~Pg. 108
In short, this book leaves a great deal to be desired. The concept, in its most basic form, is a fine idea but it is never fully developed and neither are the characters. Readers should revisit Du Maurier herself instead.
Imprint: Bourbon Street Books
On Sale: 1/7/2014
Format: Trade PB
Trimsize: 5 5/16 x 8
Pages: 352; $14.99; Ages: 18 and Up