Wilfire at Midnight, by Mary Stewart

>> Friday, February 20, 2004

I really enjoyed the two of Mary Stewart's books that I read. Luckily I have quite a few of them left to read, and earlier this week I tackled Wilfire at Midnight.

The brooding mountains of Skye form the backdrop to a story of Wicker Man-like ritual murder. Gianetta Drury is a model who goes to Scotland for a rest from the frenetic London fashion scene, only to find that her ex-husband is staying at the same hotel (recommended by her parents who want them to get back together). The week before her arrival, the body of a local girl has been found on the mountain, in circumstances pointing to one of the men staying at the hotel. Then one of the women staying there is killed, her climbing rope cut during an ascent of Blaven.
There was a lot about it that I liked, but certain things, though possibly true to the period, bugged the hell out of me. A C seems like a good average.

Ok, first the good: This was romantic suspense, and I very much liked the suspense part. In fact, it felt a bit like a "horror" romance, which is a rare subgenre, and one I've enjoyed the few times I've ran into it. The atmosphere was incredible (though I had some difficulty following some of the descriptions of the scenary, since my English vocabulary is a bit lacking in "mountain" terminology), and the way the case was developed was good. The only negative was that I felt the book was too short, basically because the dénouement came when I was just beginning to settle into the book.

And now for the bad. I detested the romantic thread. Since saying exactly who Gianetta ends up with would be a spoiler, because it would mean that person isn't the murderer, I'll insert some spoiler space here:








The romantic thread touched on one of my hot buttons, which is that I cannot stand for a wife to go back to a cheating husband, and that is exactly what Gianetta does. To make it worse, she does it after some nauseating sermons about how love and pride don't mix, and that if a woman wants to keep her man, she should be ready to forgive and forget. Eeek!! If that's the "mature" way to feel, I'll be glad to stay immature the rest of my life, sorry!

Also, the problem is that after the little bit of preaching she does in the beginning about this, it was quite obvious that she and Nicholas would end up together, so all the little red herring clues which seemed to indicate he was the murderer didn't even begin to trick me. It's too typical of romantic suspense... if the heroine has two possible love interests, one of them is bound to be the murderer. So when I became convinced Nicholas was her love, it was obvious Roderick Grant had to be the murderer.

Oh, and a final irritant: I'd previously found Mary Stewart's heroines to be brave, resourceful and not prey to the damsel-in-distress syndrome, but Gianetta here was not that. There's this final confrontation with the murderer where she isn't able to do harm to him even to save her life, because oh, of course, a proper little woman freezes at the point where she has to actually hurt someone to defend herself, and needs to be rescued by her man. Bah!

I expected better of this author.


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