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In the summer of 1914, young Basque doctor Jean-Marc Montjean--the narrator of this disarmingly atypical novel by the author of Shibumi and The Eiger Sanction--takes his first job after medical school: he is the assistant to jovial, selfish Doctor Gros, who ministers to hypochondriacal ladies in the spa of Salies-les-Bains. But Jean-Marc's mixed feelings about his medical duties are soon overshadowed--once he locks eyes with lovely Katya Treville, who summons him to attend to the broken collarbone of her supercilious twin brother Paul. Soon Jean-Marc is a regular visitor at the rented Treville house outside of town, where Katya and Paul live with their absent-minded-scholar father. Katya--tart, dreamy, unflappable--seems to return his affection, confiding her wispy fantasies about a ghost in her garden. Monsieur Treville happily chats to him about medieval plagues. But why is Katya's brother Paul so hostile? Why does he forbid Jean-Marc to show even the most decorous signs of courtship in front of Monsieur T.? And why is Paul secretly planning to move the whole household away from Salies-les-Bains as soon as possible? Well, just as the family is about to join Jean-Marc on an outing to a Basque ritual celebration, he learns (from Dr. Gros) that the Trevilles have been virtual fugitives ever since the ""accidental"" Paris shooting of one of Katya's suitors by Monsieur T. And, indeed, Paul soon confirms that his father is dangerously insane--which seems to explain everyone's odd behavior thus far. But, after the Basque outing (during which Katya confesses that she doesn't love Jean-Marc as he loves her), there are further, more disturbing revelations. . . leading up to a creepy finale worthy of a Hitchcock filming. Very European in feel, with the leisurely pace of a long short story: an elegant exercise in quiet gothic horror--carefully modulated, nicely filled out with gentle character-comedy, and shaded with genuine, underplayed period atmosphere.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1983
ISBN: 1400098041
Publisher: Crown