This novel is the British writer´s fourth stand-alone. It is probably more precise to call it gothic romance than mystery.
“I used to wonder if Alfie chose me because I was an orphan and an only child. Was that part of the attraction? I came unencumbered, with no family.”
As Gwen Rowland´s mother died from an overdose of drugs some years ago, she is all alone in the world. She falls in love with the actor Alfie Donovan who is her opposite in many ways. He has more family than he cares for at Creake Hall. Four older sisters, an aging mother and a mysterious, yet quite attractive gardener.
Alfie´s mother has written the famous series Tom Dickon Harry, claiming her inspiration was Alfie, her only son. Alfie feels he has lived in the shadows of this fictional character all his life, and even as an adult he finds it very difficult to carve a career for himself as everybody see him as Tom.
Alfie and Gwen are very happy together, though, until Gwen insists on accompanying him when he goes home to Creake Hall for the traditional family Christmas. “… an Elizabethan manor house, a jumble of tall, barley sugar chimneys and crow step gables, red brick walls and a battery of mullioned windows…”
The story is very strong on atmosphere and suspense with a trace of gothic horror and a feeling of being caught in a web permeating the story. It is a very enjoyable read with several intriguing characters though the ending is more romantic than psychologically credible in my opinion. I bought the e-book myself.
Here is an interesting article about Linda Gillard and her ebook.