Last night, debut author Maine dreamed of a contemporary spin on classic Gothic tropes.
Orphan Hetty Deveraux has inherited a crumbling, wind-battered mansion on remote Muirland Island in western Scotland, “on the edge of the world.” The day she arrives to inspect her new property, however, local assessor James Cameron finds a skeleton beneath the floorboards. Who is it, and how long has it been there? Abandoned since the war, the house was the refuge of Theo Blake, a Turner-esque painter–turned–mad recluse and a distant relative of Hetty’s. At loose ends since the deaths of her parents, Hetty hopes restoring the house will serve as a new beginning. Meanwhile, in 1910, Theo Blake brings his new bride to Muirland House, whose landscapes have inspired some of his most famous paintings. Maine skillfully balances a Daphne du Maurier atmosphere with a Barbara Vine–like psychological mystery as she guides the reader back and forth on these storylines. The two narrative threads are united by the theme of conservation versus exploitation: Muirland is a habitat for several species of rare birds, threatened in the 1910 plot by Blake’s determination to kill and mount them for his collection and in the 2010 story by Hetty’s half-formed plans to transform Muirland House into a luxury hotel. Local man Cameron wants to see the island preserved as “a precious place, wild and unspoiled, a sanctuary for more than just the birds.” The setting emerges as the strongest personality in this compelling story, evoking passion in the characters as fierce as the storms which always lurk on the horizon.
A debut historical thriller which deftly blends classic suspense with modern themes.