In the other photo, which clearly predated it by a few years, the same man was joined by a young woman. They were framed by the arch of a lychgate, he dressed in a uniform Ellen didn’t recognise, she smiling self-consciously and caught in the act of thrusting up a hand to keep her troublesome veil away from her face. A young couple, on the cusp of a new life together. Ellen peered closely at her and smiled. ‘Hello, Eudora,’ she said quietly. She put the photos back on the shelf and picked up a vase of chrysanthemums and carnations, which had clung on to life for a little longer than their mistress but not much. The stagnant water did nothing to relieve the dank and oppressive smell which permeated the room. Cold as she was, she had to suppress the urge to throw open the window and every door in the place and let in the fresh air. She wondered briefly about the flowers. Clearly they were not from the garden – not in February.
commentary: Came across this one over at Sarah Ward’s blog, Crimepieces, where her guest reviewer Rachel Hall gave it a good writeup. I liked the sound of the concept, and was not disappointed when I read the book.
First of all I should say that it is described as ‘A Dark and Shocking Psychological Drama’ – and I don’t think that is quite right. I would be unlikely to read a book with that description – it was only reading Hall’s thoughtful review that made me give it a try. This book is far from cozy, and it deals with some quite nasty crimes: but to me that off-putting description suggests a much more horrible book, the kind that I avoid (gory details, too much violence and abuse, hideous crimes against women and children). I hesitate to make this point – because I know some innocent readers do enjoy those books, and I wouldn’t like to put anyone off from reading this. But I honestly think that that description does NOT do the book justice, and perhaps the publishers might rethink?
The book does start with a sad and horrible incident involving young people, and it is not for the faint of heart. But then the plot moves on: a modern day woman gets a letter telling her she has inherited something from a woman she has never heard of. She is intrigued, of course, and unsure if she should accept, and tries to find out what exactly is going on. But whom can she trust? I thought the character of Ellen was very believable, very well done – I would have guessed that a woman had written the book if I didn’t know that GJ Minett is a man. The details of her daily life as a mother-of-two were all too convincing, and I liked her passing comments on life:
When it came to her own staff, she’d take artificial and mannered over rude and aggressive any day of the week.There’s a dogged journalist, O’Halloran, in the picture, also apparently trying to find out what the mysterious bequest is about – I liked another character’s view of him:
O’Halloran assured me he had no intention of adding to my grief by telling anyone what he knew. I had nothing to worry about. You have to know him to understand just how worrying that was in itself.Some of the plot was guessable, but there were still surprises, and I liked the good heart of the book – that may sound unlikely in the context of a story about a serious crime, but there was a warmth alongside the sadness. I will be interested in reading any future works by Minett, who seems to me to be very talented.
I think most serious crime fiction readers are constantly puzzled by which works make it onto the bestseller list and which don’t: this is a book that I would put ahead of many of the current and recent big names.
The picture is from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, which has a lovely collection of wedding photos – this one is from 1945.