Readers of Anne Perry’s bestselling suspense novels revel in a world that is all their own, sharing the privileged existence of Britain’s wealthy and powerful elite in West End mansions and great country houses. It is also a world in which danger bides in unsuspected places and the line between good and evil can be razor thin. This new novel features Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould–one of the most memorable characters from the Thomas Pitt series–who appears here as a lively young woman, the ultimate aristocrat who can trace her blood to half the royal houses of Europe.
It’s Christmas and the Berkshire countryside lies wrapped in winter chill. But the well-born guests who have gathered at Applecross for a delicious weekend of innocent intrigue and passionate romance are warmed by roaring fires and candlelight, holly and mistletoe, good wine and gorgeously wrapped gifts. It’s scarcely the setting for misfortune, and no one–not even that clever young aristocrat and budding sleuth Vespasia Cumming-Gould–anticipates the tragedy that is to darken this light-hearted holiday house party. But soon one young woman lies dead, a suicide, and another is ostracized, held partly responsible for the shocking turn of events.
To expiate her guilt, Gwendolen Kilmuir sets out for the Scottish Highlands, hoping to explain to the dead girl’s mother the circumstances surrounding the sorrowful act–and to bring her back to England for the funeral. Gwendolen’s sole companion on this nightmarish journey is Vespasia. As Vespasia learns more about the victim and the ugly forces that shaped her desperate deed, she understands the heartbreaking truth of the tragedy.
I found this book a really interesting read.It is set as usual in the Victorian period. Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould attends a house Party with some friends, there is some gossip and some less than friendly emotions going round and when one of the guests - Isobel Alvie - makes a cruel remark to another that will apparently lead to the suicide of the latter.
As Isobel is shunned and condemned by all except Vespasia the owner of the house as the idea of proposing an expiation journey for Isobel - to take the dead woman's last letter to her mother who leaves in the highland of Scotland - and if she is sucessful everyone will abide by a pact of silence of not speaking of it again nor condemning her socially.
I found the idea of the expiation of a crime very interesting and found myself wanting to know more about it. As Vespasia and Isobel start their journey to find Gwendolen's mother not only is the journey dangerous but is also an emotional dificult one as Isobel will have to tell her part in the tragic events. Vespasia is the character we get to know better, she is a sensible and kind woman (sometimes a bit too kind to be real) of her time who will gain a better knowledge of herself with this journey. And as the journey progresses not only is Isobel's behaviour analysed but they also start suspecting that more things may have been tormenting Guendolen.
If I have a complaint about this story is how short it was, a bigger story would have allowed for more analysis on the character's feelings and the burden of guilt that most of them seem to carry.