After finishing “The Winter Sea”, I decided to try another Susanna Kearlsey. This time I went with “The Splendour Falls”.
Emily Braden has a cousin Harry, who is a historian. He convinces Emily to vacation with him in France, near Chinon castle, but Harry doesn’t show. Where could he be?
Emily is enchanted with the small town of Chinon and the history of the area. Her hotel has a small core group of foreigners who welcome Emily into their circle, and she at first is not too concerned with cousin Harry’s disappearance as he is typically late to his engagements. As time goes on, Emily learns more about the occupation of World War 2 and how it affected those living in the area.
“We were all silent a moment, reflecting on the wreckage of a war that none of us had lived through. For me, the war meant only Granddad’s faded ration book and the neighbour’s horrid bomb shelter and musty gas masks gathering dust in the cupboard under the stairs. It all seemed so distant from me, really – an hour or so of film in black and white, and stories told by old men at the local, when the winds of November came cold off the Channel…
It was Christian who spoke up first, shifting his position at the bar, his soft eyes thoughtful. ‘But this war,’ he said, ‘it is over now, and now we all sit here and talk; French and German and American…’
‘And Canadian,’ said Simon.
‘…and Canadian. It is strange, is it not?’
Paul smiled at him. ‘It’s reassuring. Nice to know we can all move forward, once the scars heal over.
Half swallowed by the shadow in the corner, Neil calmly pointed out that all old scars felt twinges now and then. ‘You can’t erase the memory altogether, unfortunately.’
A suspicious death, and then another, and Emily finds herself embroiled in solving a mystery. Who pushed her friend to his death? and is Emily at risk herself? is there anyone whom she can trust? where is her cousin? and what about the gypsy who seems to always be around, is he following Emily?
More of a novel of suspense than historical fiction, I read this book quickly and enjoyed it more than Kearsley’s “Winter Sea”. Not a short book (over 400 pages in length), I found I had to keep reading to find out what happened to Harry, and whom Emily will choose is her soul mate, in the long run!
This book, more than any other I’ve read by Kearsley so far, helps me to understand why she is compared to Mary Stewart. It also reminded me of Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney’s books. Kearsley likes to use real settings and true historical figures in her books, so Chinon Castle in France, King John and Queen Isabella are another area of discovery for me.