by Andrea Gillies
As his spirit wanders a crumbling family estate, a murdered teenager narrates the story of his death and the web of deception woven to conceal it. The Salter family was once prosperous and important, but their fortune has become so watered down that they can no longer maintain the property. Yet the family still gathers there, insulated from the world inside the walls of Peattie House. As they gather to celebrate the birthday of Edith, the shade of her grandson Michael Salter combs through memories of the past to reveal the true cause of his death, and the person responsible for it.
Michael is an unreliable narrator, constantly hedging in his words and stopping short of definitive statements. He shifts from one version of his story to the next, slipping through time with no respect for chronology. His family members debate events, posing alternate theories for his disappearance, and all he does is keep quiet and occasionally hint that he alone knows the truth. In truth, the endless repetition between cousins and uncles and aunts gets old quickly.
Navigating the web of lies is second in difficulty only in navigating the web of family relationships. There are a lot of characters populating this novel – just the family only contains twenty-four people, and then there are servants and visitors and friends in the village. It’s overwhelming. With such an enormous cast, few characters are developed beyond one or two baseline personality traits. Some of them are unpleasant, others merely unsympathetic. At the end of the book, I was left wanting more information about a couple of the key characters, and feeling absolutely indifferent towards the rest.
The narrator’s drifting lack of focus, the overpopulated cast, and the convoluted plot made the novel excessively tedious. I wearied of the mystery early on, and had long ceased to care about the resolution before reaching the final page.
2 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir
2012: Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2012: Romeo & Juliet
2011: Off to Ashland for a few days!
2010: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
2009: News: Administration to Bail Out Book Biz