Revisiting the interconnected-mysteries-separated-by-centuries setup that worked so well in The Island House (2012, etc.), Graeme-Evans sends an Australian adoptee searching for her birth mother to a castle on the England-Scotland border.
In 1321, Hundredfield is held by the Dieudonné family, arrogant descendants of the Norman invaders who are feared and hated by the Saxon peasantry. Godefroi, the current lord, has done little to improve matters by marrying the mysterious Lady Flore, said to be a sorceress, while keeping as her servant a local girl, Margaretta, who has borne his son. How can Jesse, in the hospital after being hit by a motorcycle on a June day in 1981 shortly after arriving in London from Sydney, know Hundredfield well enough to draw it with her left hand, even though she’s right-handed and can’t draw? It might seem a ridiculous coincidence to have Jesse’s doctor, Rory Brandon, recognize the castle because his mother worked for the owners—whose daughter happens to be Alicia, the cafe waitress who helped Jesse after the accident. But there are no coincidences in Graeme-Evans’ satisfyingly spooky tale, which turns on a pre-Christian cult of the mother goddess whose female acolyte, the Lady of the Forest, arrives in the woods near Hundredfield over the centuries in times of need and bears a daughter. Flore is one such otherworldly visitor, Margaretta reveals when the lady’s body vanishes after giving birth about halfway through the book—a red flag that will tell alert readers where the story is heading. This doesn’t seriously mar the tension Graeme-Evans builds as the 14th- and 20th-century stories alternate while moving toward violent climaxes followed by loving renewal in both. Unlike The Island House, the modern characters are not as compelling as their ancestors—yes, Jesse proves to have roots in the borderlands as well—but the expert unfolding of a complicated plot mostly compensates.
More gripping entertainment from a seasoned professional.