This novel opens in 1903 as Billie Paxton, her pregnant sister, Edith, and her brother-in-law, Henry, are traveling to a remote Scottish Island where Henry has been employed to catalogue the eccentric Lord Hollowhulme’s library at Kiss Castle. As their ship docks, Billie is seen jumping from ship to shore just moments before an explosion on board causes it to sink–leaving only a few survivors and many unanswered questions. Why did Billie jump just in time to save her life? Did she know or, even worse, plant the explosive that caused so many deaths? Murdo Hesketh, one of the survivors and a kinsman of Lord Hollowhulme, is determined to find the answers. Due to Billie’s highly suspicious and very timely exodus from the ship, he sees her as the prime suspect. As Murdo delves into his investigation, Billie begins her own painful process of coming to terms with her losses, and the reader soon realizes there’s a lot more involved than initially meets the eye.
Billie’s Kiss is a complex, thought-provoking novel full of finely drawn characters, a number of whom, as the story progresses, are slowly but surely stripped of their masks and pretensions and, ultimately, exposed … along with the answers Murdo has so determinedly been seeking. Although Knox’s earlier and superbly written novel, The Vintner’s Luck, remains my favorite, I found Billie’s Kiss to be another page-turner and highly recommend it.