By Paraic O’Donnell
Publication Date: June 7, 2022
The premise of this book sounded intriguing. It opens with a murder on an English country estate and promised to reveal “a secret beyond imagining. A secret that would change everything.” Okay, I was in.
The first half of the book lived up to its promise. Mr. Crowe, the reclusive owner of the estate, did indeed kill the victim. But upon investigation by his butler, Mr. Eustace, it appears the man wasn’t killed by bullets, yet Mr. Crowe killed him all the same. Interesting – and brings into question what abilities Mr. Crowe possesses that he can shoot several times at someone, miss, yet still kill him without touching him?
Alas, the book never quite answers that question. Nor does it answer what abilities Clara, Mr. Crowe’s mute ward, possesses that are in such demand by the men who come to hold Mr. Crowe accountable for taking a life.
For the first half of the book, I assumed everything was leading up to these revelations. The clues were there, if somewhat vague. The characters of Mr. Eustace and Clara were intriguing and held my interest. The pacing and tension picked up as Mr. Eustace prepared for the arrival of the men who would demand retribution. Everything is ready. Dinner is tense and filled with threatening vibes. Mr. Eustace is pulled aside just long enough for a kidnapping to occur. A car chase. A fatality. And then…the novel jumps to an apparently unrelated story about a nameless boy helping his father run a ferry in an unnamed location during an unspecified time period.
The change was abrupt and unwelcome. While the plot did eventually come back around to the original storyline, I’d lost the momentum and it never really picked up again. In the end, I had more questions than answers and the story felt incomplete. While I had a better understanding of Mr. Crowe, Clara remained a mystery and Mr. Eustace practically fell off the radar, as far as his usefulness went.
The prose was excellent and I remained immersed in the writing, even if I wasn’t terribly enthralled with the storyline. The sentence structure in the scene where Clara falls ill with a fever is nothing short of spectacular. But still, I was left wanting more.
I rated this novel 3 stars. ⭐⭐⭐
Thank you to NetGalley and Tin House for providing the ARC copy of this novel. I have left my review voluntarily and honestly.
Until next time, thank you for visiting.
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