Friday, 17 March 2000

Mary Stewart: Wildfire at Midnight (1956)

Edition: Crest
Review number: 454

A sense of place is important in many of Stewart's novels, particularly in the second, in which the brooding mountains of Skye form the backdrop to a story of Wicker Man-like ritual murder. Gianetta Drury is a model who goes to Scotland for a rest from the frenetic London fashion scene, only to find that her ex-husband is staying at the same hotel (recommended by her parents who want them to get back together). The week before her arrival, the body of a local girl has been found on the mountain, in circumstances pointing to one of the men staying at the hotel. Then one of the women staying there is killed, her climbing rope cut during an ascent of Blaven.

The suspense is manipulated in what is perhaps an overly obvious manner. Phrases like "Gianetta could sense that something awful was going to happen" recur. The question of the identity of the killer is an easy one to solve. The characters are conventional. Yet Wildfire at Midnight draws the reader in, and is an enjoyable light read.

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