Prolific Oldfield (The Birthday Present, 2010, etc.) spins yet another tale of England, this one just before World War I in the town of Henley-on-Thames.
Marianne Lefevre is a new governess. After losing both her parents, she’s found herself in the employ of a dour Victorian matriarch, Georgina Matlowe. Mrs. Matlowe’s daughter-in-law, Leonora, disappeared years ago, followed shortly by her son Neil, leaving their twin daughters in her charge. Though eight-year-old Emmie and Edie are charming, their home has a haunted feel: Mrs. Matlowe passes her days in her son’s abandoned bedroom, and the girls say they’ve seen a mysterious man by the disused boathouse. The man, Marianne learns, is not a ghost but a private investigator, hired by Leonora’s American brother to discover her whereabouts. Private Investigator Donald Watson’s inquiries lead him to Ivy Busby, the aged nanny to both Leonora and her twins. Ivy’s recollections turn the investigation back to the boathouse. Why, so soon after Leonora’s disappearance, was the rockery in front of it replaced with rose bushes? What dark secrets are buried in the boathouse, and what aid can fair Marianne offer Mr. Watson?
More atmospheric than mysterious, with a mournful tinge but a happy finale—a mild, pleasant Gothic romance of the old school.