Friday, November 20, 2009

Murder on the Cliffs-Joanna Challis

Murder on the Cliffs
Joanna Challis
Minotaur, Dec 1 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312367145

Wanting to become a writer, twenty one year old Daphne du Maurier is in Cornwall conducting research at Rothmarten Abbey. During a storm, Daphne notices a teenager leaning over the body of a woman on the beach. Daphne introduces herself to Lianne Hartley, who reluctantly says the deceased is former kitchen maid Victoria Bastion, who was engaged to Lianne’s brother David over the objection of his family. Local magistrate Sir Edward rules the death an accident.

Soon after running into Lianne for the first time Daphne meets the rest of the aristocratic Hartley family whom she finds odd but fascinating. When she learns Victoria died from poisoning, Daphne investigates starting with the Hartley brood at nearby Padthaway Mansion.

The mystery takes a back seat to the early adult life of Daphne du Maurier whose investigation serves as the conduit to her one day writing Rebecca. The suspense never comes close to that described by the lead protagonist in her novels but is a fascinating device that enables the audience to have a glimpse at the author’s life and her most famous work. Fans who enjoy historical fiction wrapped inside a thin amateur sleuth will want to read Murder on the Cliffs.

Harriet Klausner