DI Herbert Reardon is drawn into the insular world of a girls’ boarding school in the second of this period series (Heirs and Assigns, 2015).
It's 1930. All over Britain, crumbling aristocratic estates are being converted to institutions, and Maxstead Court is no different. It’s now a respectable boarding school for girls, and Ellen Reardon is very pleased to join it and the working world she had to leave when she got married, teaching French under clever headmistress Edith Hillyard. But the school’s bright future takes an ugly turn when the previous French teacher, Isabelle Blanchard, turns up dead among the renovations. Ellen’s workplace becomes her husband’s crime scene, as DI Reardon examines the building site and questions the students and staff. No one seems to know anything about Mademoiselle Blanchard’s past; the one person who might have anything to tell, the French teacher she replaced, has vanished. Meanwhile, the girls are immersed in their own private schemes, and Miss Hillyard is uncommonly silent about the source of the school’s funds. When one of the girls goes missing and is found locked in a room of the old, decaying wing of Maxstead Court, she won’t say who put her there, and when one of the mistresses is shoved in the lake, she insists she merely slipped. Whose secrets are they keeping?
Thoroughly feminine and insinuatingly Gothic, reminiscent of du Maurier’s Rebecca: an atmospheric take on well-worn tropes.