THE HOUSE OF CRAY by Pamela Hill


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It might be possible, via charts and a slide rule, to untangle the vaguely 19th-century, Italian/English familial connections here--but it's hardly worth the trouble: Hill has forsaken her suspense/action plots for boiling confusion in a stationary tangle of licit and illicit pregnancies, abortive mysteries, and offhand killings. It all begins when pretty, spoiled Isotta Bondone, pregnant but unwed daughter of a Florence art-dealer, is forced to wed family friend Marcus Cray: the babe is dubbed Marco (the first of many confusing name similarities), the marriage is surprisingly happy, but then Marcus' father Jacob is murdered by villain George Messingbird--and the mayhem is under way. Isotta's sister-in-law Anna becomes George's mistress. George is assassinated by lawyer Riccione (historical motives are murkily mentioned). Isotta's father and his mistress are poisoned by an unsuccessful painter. Marcus plans to open a Bondone branch in London--but is blocked by Isotta's brother Luigi. . . who dies. (But there's another Luigi, so pay attention.) Isotta is being blackmailed about son Marco's paternity; Marcus is forced to take on crass Youngchild of Yorkshire as a partner (Youngchild's aide will soon shove Marcus off a scaffold); Marco marries, and his wife dies after giving birth to Jacob (called Jacky)--but watch out. . . because Marcus' brother is also named Jacob (called Jake). Meanwhile, there's more dirty work with wills, with Riccione, with Luigi II and others sling babies out of wedlock. And finally Anna on her deathbed tells Luigi II about his dubious parentage, while Jacob (Jake) frames his nephew Jacob (Jacky) for the theft of an ancient crucifix. Utter chaos, and a disappointment for fans accustomed to Hill's usual packages of unpretentious, impure action-romance.

Pub Date: July 3rd, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's