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Told through diaries and letters, a mystery set in England in 1842 follows a young governess who is faced with a sinister manservant, a master's tyranny, and a situation fraught with bitter rivalries, intense hatreds, and murder
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Author Robert Barnard, writing for the first time as Bernard Bastable, sets his story in the English countryside of 1842 and in the Elmstead Court household of Sir Richard Hudson--comprised of Sir Richard, his wife, son Andrew, and three daughters, the oldest of whom is rebellious 18-year-old Jane. Andrew's tutor is William Worsley, and governess Frances Weyland is a recent addition. Behind a well-bred fa‡ade, Sir Richard, between bouts of illness, rules and intimidates his family with cruel sarcasm and--in Andrew's case--worse. But the reader soon learns, through a series of letters and diary entries, that the real power behind this throne is Sir Richard's massive manservant Joseph, guided by his equally venal mother. Joseph is aware of Lady Hudson's affair with the family doctor; of Andrew's thwarted desire to go to Cambridge; of his tutor's hopes for appointment, through Sir Richard, to the vicarage at Little Burdock, but, above all, he alone has the means to prove murder when Sir Richard dies. The enthralled reader, briskly carried along by the author's literate, subtle, suspenseful narrative, may feel a bit let down by the abruptness of the windup--but the going is sheer delight in the hands of a master of the genre. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
English author Robert Barnard ( A Fatal Attachment ), writing under any name, can be counted on for robust social satire, meticulous plotting and lively prose. In this historical mystery, set in 1842, he explores skulduggery in the manor house of Elmstead Court, where passions are overripe and death is imminent. As Sir Richard Hudson's illness progresses, his treatment of his teenage son Andrew worsens and his reliance on the odious, scheming manservant Joseph increases. His wife, Lady Hudson, has additional problems, including spats with her willful, feminist daughter Jane and a budding passion for the good doctor who administers Sir Richard's potions. Also on hand are Andrew's ambitious tutor, who has his eye on a local parish seat, and the timid governess, who has her eye on the tutor. Bastable has a rollicking time here, making sly references to Dickens and Bronte, Peel's parliament and the young Queen Victoria, seldom missing a chance to stick it to the ruling classes. The most sympathetic character is resolute Jane, the finest moment when Joseph's true nature is revealed in full Mephistophelean splendor. Diary entries and letters laced through the narrative add much dash to this playful tale.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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