9780553803488 / 0553803484

The Murder Stone





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About the book:

How well do we really know the people we love? Maybe never well enough, to judge by the example of Francesca Hatton, the young British heiress around whom Charles Todd constructs his first standalone historical suspense tale, The Murder Stone. Leaving London and her volunteer work with wounded World War I soldiers, Francesca--"the last of the Hattons ... [a] long and distinguished line"--returns in 1916 to River's End, the rural estate where her powerful and beloved grandfather is dying of a stroke. Francis Hatton's passing hits Francesca hard, especially coming so soon after the demise of her five male cousins, all of them "mown down with their dreams of glory" in battle. But her mourning is interrupted by multiple mysteries. Why did Francis insist in his will that the Murder Stone, a large and cryptically named white rock in his garden, be moved to the farthest corner of Scotland? Why had he concealed his ownership of two other, distant estates? And could there be any truth in the charge, leveled by an invalided soldier, that Francis long ago "abducted and killed his mother, then buried the body where it couldn't be found"? Forced by new revelations to rebalance her faith in the man who'd taken her in as an orphaned child, while simultaneously contending with a random sniper who's invaded the neighborhood of River's End, Francesca struggles to build a new future, even as her trust in the "facts" of her past crumbles.

Over the course of six previous novels, beginning with A Test of Wills--all featuring shell-shocked soldier-turned-inspector Ian Rutledge--Todd (the nom de plume of a mother-son writing team) has shown considerable skill in formulating criminal conundrums against the backdrop of post-World War I Britain. The Murder Stone vividly recaptures the nation in the very midst of that international violence, a painful period of untimely deaths and stunning Zeppelin raids. However, this yarn is as much a Gothic romance as an abstruse puzzler. Most of the secrets here can be figured out faster by the average reader than by the incredibly na´ve Francesca. And with the exception of that vexed protagonist, whose investigations paint her into ever tighter moral corners, none of this novel's characters achieve much dimension. They're mechanical players in a drama that is surprising mostly for its failure to surprise. --J. Kingston Pierce

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