Seeking inspiration to begin her writing career, young Daphne du Maurier visits Cornwall and finds a dead bride-to-be.
Rain. Wind. Rocks. A slight figure barely visible in the gloom. How better to capture the imagination of a nascent writer visiting her mum’s old nanny while researching in the musty archives at Rothmarten Abbey? Aha! Daphne spies a body at the base of the cliffs. Standing over the corpse is the slightly mad Lianne Hartley, who identifies it as Victoria Bastion, a former kitchen maid who captured the heart of Lianne’s brother David, lord and heir of the Elizabethan manor Padthaway. In a trice Daphne is invited to the great house, complete with dungeons, a sinister tower, a secret garden and Lady Hartley, who loathed the prospect of Victoria as her daughter-in-law. Sir Edward, the local magistrate, declares the death accidental, but Daphne’s skepticism is proven right when a medical examination turns up poison. Suspects include odd-child Lianne, the intended groom, Lady Hartley and her lover, the obligatory sinister housekeeper and the mysterious person Victoria secretly went to London to meet. A kiss with the wrong gentleman and a proper disdain for the right one later, Daphne resolves the matter and begins to write of Manderley.
Du Maurier becomes the latest luminary to suffer the indignity of being named sleuth by an author in search of a gimmick. Challis (Eye of the Serpent, 2007, etc.) provides ample hints of Rebecca, but no hint of its author’s mastery of atmosphere or suspense.