The Last Mrs. Summers (A Royal Spyness Mystery)
England, 1935. Georgie, cousin to the King of England and a newlywed, finds herself with time on her hands when her husband leaves for a secret assignment (she suspects he works undercover for the government). As luck would have it, her old friend Belinda Warburton-Stoke stops by and invites her along for the ride to see White Sails, a house on the Cornish coast that Belinda’s late grandmother has left her. White Sails is remote, with enough dark, creepy corners and stairways to please the most discerning of gothic fiction fans.
However, most of the action takes place not at White Sails but at the equally gothic Trewoma Hall, home of a childhood acquaintance of Belinda’s. The members of Trewoma’s household are clearly based on Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca: the gauche young wife (Belinda’s acquaintance); her wealthy playboy husband whose sophisticated, beautiful former wife died under suspicious circumstances; and a housekeeper who is obsessively devoted to the first wife and dismissive of the second. Bowen adds some clever twists to the Rebecca framework, but I wish she would have deviated further from it. All the same, this is a delightful mystery that kept me guessing, with an interesting, sympathetic protagonist. I was confused by the many characters introduced at the beginning, so I recommend starting with the first book in the series. Bowen is a skilled writer, and mystery fans won’t be disappointed.