Monday, 12 October 1998

Anne Stevenson: Mask of Treason (1979)

Edition: Hamlyn
Review number: 134

The Mask of Treason is a competent thriller, very much in the mould of Mary Stewart. An innocent young woman gets caught up in terrible events - that is the essence of this plot as of many of Stewart's.

Fiona Grant is a costume designer, in the throes of her first major success, the costumes for an important and well-received production of Der Rosenkavalier. As this transfers from London to Edinburgh to form an important part of the International Festival, she takes advantage of the few days' rest while everything moves north to visit her parents on the West Coast of Scotland.

Asked by her rich uncle to bring his Mercedes north from Glasgow for him, it is during the car journey that her adventures begin, as she comes out of a fog bank and brakes just in time to avoid an accident with a stationary pair of cars, one containing a dead man.

As she travels on north with Wyndham, the naval commander who was in the other car, she becomes involved in a shadowy world of espionage centred around the navy research base on the island opposite the small town in which her father runs a boatyard.

Mask of Treason is an interesting, if gentle, thriller, which is another reason that it reminds the reader of Mary Stewart. If Stewart had continued to write in the same vein as Nine Coaches Waiting, Airs Above the Ground and Wildfire at Midnight instead of moving to a more mystical vein which produced the excellent Arthur novels and the more insipid romances she has written in the last few years, then Mask of Treason is the sort of novel she could easily have gone on to produce.

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