Something for everyone in a so-so from Upcher (Down by the River, 2001): a country house murder mystery, a social satire, and a story of obsessive love.
Victoria Hissey is the author of sweeping historical novels featuring the eccentric ancestors of her late husband, Hugh, and Laybridge, their ancestral manse. She keeps busy overseeing its famous gardens, scribbling away, and keeping an eye on her godson Orlando, a charming, sexually magnetic young man who owns an ultrahip photo agency and works with hundreds of gorgeous models who don’t interest him much: he prefers to stay at the Laybridge cottage and host wild weekend parties for London friends. His indulgent godmother doesn’t mind—after all, Orlando’s mother, Daisy, who married Guy Manners, Hugh’s best friend, used to have even wilder parties back in the ’60s. Daisy, uninhibited and beautiful, slept with whomever she liked, shocking the staid Hugh when he caught her having sex with Guy’s brother Bruno. When Guy and Daisy drowned one night under rather mysterious circumstances, Victoria was left to raise Orlando. She always doted on the handsome boy and is somewhat nonplussed when he brings home his new bride, Lindy, a book scout for foreign publishers. As a welcoming gift, Victoria presents her with the Visitor’s Book, a round-robin diary begun by Hugh’s father’s French mistress and continued by Daisy. Lindy and Orlando had a whirlwind romance during a Caribbean fling and wed in haste, and so it may be time to repent at leisure . . . and read the Visitor’s Book for clues about the family she’s married into. Why is Rose, the daughter of Victoria’s cook and gardener, so obviously infatuated with Orlando, and why is she in charge of all arrangements at The Cottage? Can it be true that Orlando’s equally handsome Uncle Bruno is having an affair with Victoria? How did Daisy and Guy die . . . and why?
Convoluted, often unfocused, and only tentatively titillating.