The psychotherapist heroine of The House on the Cliff (2014) entangles herself in the dangerous world of fine arts.
Elinor Powell has been claustrophobic and unable to paint ever since she came into her art studio in Cardiff and found her mother’s body. The police think Mrs. Powell was murdered when she surprised someone stealing a valuable family painting. In a session with therapist Jessica Mayhew, Elinor bemoans the scrutiny that she, her twin sister, and her sister’s husband, Blake, are getting from the police, although Elinor is suspicious and fearful of Blake too. Jess is sympathetic toward the needy, childlike Elinor—and intrigued by the art scene her new client introduces her to. At a party in honor of the new (but absent) art sensation Hefin Morris, Jess meets Jacob Dresler, a London art critic who gives a lecture about the reclusive Morris. Jacob shows such interest in Jess that he helps her forget she’s a middle-aged mother of two and that her estranged husband is involved with a younger woman. After a passionate night with Jacob, Jess agrees to go away for a weekend with him at an inn in Cwm Du, the Black Valley, which happens to be in the same area where Elinor has camped by herself. But the romantic getaway at the inn built around a ruined 12th-century castle becomes a nightmare when Elinor and Blake converge on the inn and Blake is found dead at the foot of the tower. Jess had misgivings about him, but now she can’t help wondering about the other people she’s recently become close to. And her theory about the mysterious Morris may be difficult to prove—especially if the next death is hers.
For someone trained in reading subtle cues, Jess seems oblivious to the warning signs all around her. But her sleuthing does get her out of her office and into a complex puzzle that keeps you reading in spite of the plot contrivances.