British headmaster’s daughter stumbles upon a murder.
Not quite a mystery and not exactly a coming-of-ager, Yardley’s debut presents an array of mild-mannered eccentrics in an Essex village, circa 1965, seen through the eyes of Annie Cradock, a curious and sensitive ten-year-old. Annie is fascinated to find that Mrs. Clitheroe, her pretty, dithery music teacher, also sees music in color (a precious conceit of this discombobulated plot). Annie adores music, pop tunes in particular—and she’s such a bloody little genius that she creates a sculpture she calls “Ruby Tuesday” before the Rolling Stones make the song famous. Her beloved father, a not-too-strict headmaster with a taste for whimsy, builds a replica of the Empire State Building out of 7,574 matchboxes and flies off to Idlewild to present the silly thing to Mayor Robert Wagner at the World’s Fair. Not long after that, Mrs. Clitheroe is murdered. Did the seemingly harmless rag-and-bone man do it? Or was it one of the gypsy travelers who camped near the village? It’s all very confusing to Annie (and to the reader). Years later, Annie decides to go along when her second husband, Alan, a biotech company CEO, accepts a job offer in New York. Perhaps she can teach singing. But her old childhood friend Babette asks whether Annie can truly be happy with renting a teaching studio in Manhattan and commuting from Westchester, which is where Alan wants to live. It’s a good question. Meanwhile, Annie (in London with Alan to await her visa) has begun an intense affair with Daniel, husband #1 (on their reignited passion: “Perhaps it was always inevitable . . . ”). Can she go to New York and leave Daniel once again? What about Alan? Back to the past: a 40-year-old photo album turns up unexpectedly and provides some intriguing clues to the mystery of Mrs. Clitheroe’s death. A talky denouement wraps it all up.
A rather trivial tale—and probably too British to interest many American readers.