Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

Chinon, France, in the heart of wine country, has a deep and sometimes dark history. According to a legend told to Englishwoman Emily Braden by her cousin Harry, Chinon was the site where Queen Isabelle, the wife of King John hid her greatest treasure when the castle was besieged in the 13th century.  (It's also the location for The Lion in Winter, which isn't really relevant, but it's one of my favorite films, so I have to get in a mention.)

Emily reluctantly agrees to meet Harry in Chinon for a holiday, but when she gets there, Harry is nowhere to be found.  As she tries to find him, Emily becomes entangled in a complex web of relationships among the guests at the local hotel, and comes into the social circle of mysterious winery owner Armand Valcourt.

There's plenty of mystery in Chinon, and not just Harry's disappearance and the treasure of Queen Isabelle.  Emily learns of another mystery surrounding a second Isabelle, who worked in the hotel during the German occupation of World War II.  And of course, Monsieur Valcourt has secrets of his own.

 The Splendour Falls  is a very well done modern Gothic, with enough close calls, intrigue, and romance to keep the pages turning. Kearsley creates the perfect atmosphere and does her usual solid job of blending past and present.   Perfect for fans of Daphne Du Maurier, Victoria Holt, or Kate Morton.

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