Charlotte Williams: The House on the Cliff Sunday, Jan 12 2014 

charlotte-williams-the-house-on-the-cliff.jpg?w=450Welcome to Cardiff, Wales, home to psychotherapist Jessica Mayhew and her family.

Jessica has it all: lovely home, two great kids, a successful practice, and a loving marriage. Or so she thinks.

She’s sharp and notices small details with her clients, yet somehow misses that things are wrong in her marriage when her frequent-flyer husband, Bob, admits to a one-night stand while away on business.

Think: frosty at home, and you’d be right. She struggles with picturing Bob and his lover while trying to co-parent young Rose and 16 yr-old Nella. Is her marriage over?

But the thaw for Jessica comes in the form of an interesting new client, actor Gwydion Morgan, who arrives asking for her help with a phobia that may affect his career. The son of Evan Morgan, a womanizing, overbearing man with a string of infidelities to his name, Jessica admires Gwydion’s insistence not to trade on his father’s name and to make his own way.

It seems buttons are a huge problem for the incredibly handsome young man, and Jessica feels drawn to him, especially after Bob’s confession and her inability to forgive him.

Jessica soon susses out that the young man’s button phobia masks a deeper issue, and Gwydion admits to a frightening and recurrent dream involving being locked in a box and hearing a man and woman fighting. He wakes before the end of the scene, and soon Jessica is pushing him to remember more. She’s convinced the end of the dream is the way to his recovery.

When Gwydion’s mother calls and says her son has sunk into a deep depression and she thinks he’s suicidal, Jessica breaks one of her own rules and makes a house call. The foreboding Craigfa House reminds the reader of something out of Rebecca, a cliffside Jacobean melange on West Wales. Arianrhod Morgan is grateful Jessica has come to the house. Beautiful but unhappy, the woman has withstood her husband’s ferocious philandering for years. It’s obvious she is concerned about her son.

A drowning off their cliff years before is glossed over until Jessica learns that the young woman, Elsa Lindberg, was actually Gwydion’s nanny. Jessica begins to delve into the case, never imagining the repercussions she will dreg up. Her snooping into the young woman’s death will coincide with Gwydion remembering more and more of his dream until he reaches the devastating end.

How that will impact Jessica and her family run alongside her own distrust of her husband and her growing attraction to the young actor. Who is telling the truth? And who can she really trust?

With her instincts clouded, Jessica tries to find the answers, only to see that the truth may be harder to take than she ever imagined.

A powerful debut thriller, with an interesting family behind it and a keen sense of the psychology that Jessica practices. Williams has a long history or writing for the arts in journalism and making documentaries for the BBC. More recently she’s worked in radio drama on original plays and adaptations. Readers will hope she brings back Jessica for round two down the road.

 

Nicola Upson: Fear in the Sunlight Sunday, May 19 2013 

Nicola Upson’s fourth mystery featuring real-life Golden Age mystery writer Josephine Tey proves once again that Upson is a master at plotting, and at figuring out the complexities of personality and psychology.

Fear-in-the-Sunlight-Nicola-Upson-Cover

An intriguing setting is provided by Portmeirion, Wales, the imaginative architectural transformation of Clough Williams-Ellis, who created an Italianate village out of a section of northwest Wales’ coastal wilderness.

Noel Coward wrote Blithe Spirit at the resort, and it was frequented by actors and writers, including Tey and her circle, as a place of undeniable beauty and peace, a refuge from the hectic reality of their celebrity lives. It is to Upson’s credit that Portmeirion springs to life in the reader’s mind.

Into this tranquil setting of medieval buildings and fragrant gardens, Josephine has arrived to celebrate her fortieth birthday with the circle of friends readers will recognize, including detective Archie Penrose. Also present are celebrated director Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville and a few of their company.

Hitchcock wants to convince Tey she should allow him to adapt her mystery, A Shilling for Candles, for the screen. (The film was made as Young and Innocent, released in 1937 and was Hitchcock’s favorite British film.) But Tey needs to meet the Hitchcock’s first before granting her approval.

It is the eve of World War II, and the Hitchcock’s are being wooed to come to America, a move that will certainly change their lives. This decision weighs heavily on the director’s mind, as he listens to the wise counsel of his wife, the woman who served as his editor, writer and confidante.

But Hitchcock was known for elaborate and sometimes perverse pranks, a master manipulator of people and their reactions, fodder for his superb psychological thrillers. As Josephine and Archie each struggle with their own private demons, the group at Portmeirion will fall prey to one of the filmmaker’s most unusual and absurd tricks.

Then a grande dame of cinema is found horrifically murdered in a nearby cemetery, and each person at Portmeirion will have their past explored.

The bodies continue to pile up until a resolution is reached that leaves more questions than answers.

For Archie, the case had a very unsatisfying conclusion. It is only in the opening and closing chapters, set in 1954, that readers will learn the truth behind the string of killings that had deep-seated roots.

For readers not familiar with the series, Upson does exhaustive research into the 1930’s in the entire series, so readers are transported to the spell of that era. She has immersed herself in the life of Elizabeth Mackintosh, the Scottish author who wrote her mysteries as Tey and historical plays under the name of Gordon Daviot.

In Fear in the Sunlight, the resort village will spring to life. Portmeirion in all its glory becomes a character in itself, in this compelling mystery that hints at the future of several of its major characters. Each character is finely drawn, visually imagined, with distinct voices and sometimes surprising viewpoints.

Don’t miss this newest blend of fact and fiction from an author whose stories leap off the page. Highly recommended.

Lee Lofland

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The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

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Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews