Wednesday, 14 March 2001

Mary Stewart: Touch Not the Cat (1976)

Edition: Coronet, 1977 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number:782

This was the last thriller written by Mary Stewart for quite a considerable length of time, as she concentrated on her series of Arthurian novels. It belongs with the novels she wrote later, rather than with the earlier ones, being lighter in tone (more a romance than a thriller), set in England, and with the paranormal playing an important role.

Bryony Ashley comes from a family with a long history, a beautiful ancient house, and no money. They also have a secret: inherited telepathic powers which have in the past led to accusations of witchcraft. Bryony can communicate with one of her cousins, but even though they have fallen in love he has never revealed which one of them he is. The thriller part of the plot is basically the suspicion that at least one of her cousins is involved in the death of her father in a hit and run car accident and the discovery that several small, valuable items have been removed from the house and sold, contrary to the terms of the family trust.

The focus of the novel is the romance between Bryony and her cousin, and this means that the telepathy works better than is usually the case with the paranormal in thrillers. It is essential to the plot in an interesting way, and the tension between Bryony's feelings and her suspicions of her cousins is very well written. Altogether, Touch Not the Cat is an interesting and unusual novel.

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