The Villa of Death
The third in a series of mysteries which feature author Daphne du Maurier as the heroine, The Villa of Death brings readers to a mansion on the Cornish coast, fraught with legends, secrets, romance, and murder. We see Daphne grow as a woman and a writer as she helps her friend Ellen, heiress of the Thornleigh estate, face unthinkable and unexpected tragedy on the very day which is supposed to seal her future happiness. Among the large cast of characters, many of whom seem to run together at times, the dashing Major Browning of Scotland Yard stands out as the man most likely to sweep Daphne off her feet, except for one uncomfortable obstacle: he already has a fiancée. Even as they try to decide what they are to each other, Daphne and the major are thrown together in their efforts to solve a growing number of murders and even a kidnapping.
Set in the late 1920s amid glittering tea parties and lavish receptions, conventional society is shaken by the challenges to its mores that characterize the era between the Wars. I found myself wanting to know more about Daphne’s family and less about the morbid situations of the book. It was entertaining, nevertheless, to solve crimes with her while seeing stories take shape in her mind. It is obvious that her life as a woman and her life as a writer are already at odds with each other, a theme that will hopefully be explored more in future novels by Challis.