The House Between Tides

Written by Sarah Maine
Review by Diane Scott Lewis

Hetty, running from an uncomfortable relationship, travels to a remote island in the Outer Hebrides. It’s 2010, and she’s purchased the estate of her ancestors, who include a once-famous painter, Theo Blake. She intends to turn the mansion into a hotel, but finds the house a crumbling mess, the locals antagonistic over her plans, and the contractor, James, has discovered a skeleton hidden under the floorboards in the conservatory. Hetty and James are adversaries but team up to solve the mystery, and in the process she learns about the island’s culture.

In 1910, young Beatrice meets Theo Blake, admires his paintings, and they eventually marry. He takes her to his remote island home for the summer. At first, she’s delighted, walks the beaches observing the wildlife, and meets Cameron, Theo’s secretary. Theo and Cameron have a volatile relationship she doesn’t understand. Theo suddenly turns cold toward her, and in his neglect she’s drawn to Cameron.

The story jumps between both these years, sifting together clues to a painful past for Theo and the search to identify the victim in the conservatory. Maine’s descriptions of the island’s landscape, wildlife and unpredictable weather are evocative. Dialog embedded in another character’s actions can be confusing. Theo seems overly cruel to his young wife as he pines for something he can never have again. The changes in his painting style, from ethereal to eerie, track his deterioration. Much is left up to the reader to interpret, which showcases the skill of this debut author. Two women find unexpected love, but one will lead to tragedy. The novel is a haunting story of loss and longing in an unusual setting. Recommended.