Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Where is Holly Carleton?" by Susan Marvin

Setting:  Modern Day
Published:  1973

"I am Mme. Manet,"  she introduced herself.  "Do you wish to see me?"

"Well, I--I asked for Mme.  Holly Manet, my sister," Janice tried to explain.

"Mademoiselle, there is no Holly Manet living here at the Villa Fontaine,"  she said with a touch of irritation.  "I am afraid you have been given an incorrect address."

"Jacques' wife,"  Janice said quickly, her heart thumping.  "My sister Holly."  It sounded absurdly repetitious.

"There has been some mistake,"  Mme.  Manet said stiffly.  "My son Jacques is not married..."

Back Cover Synopsis

"I married the handsomest man," Holly wrote. "You must come to France to stay with us..." But when Janice Carleton made the long journey to be with her sister, no bride and bridegroom where there to meet her. Relatives denied knowledge of any marriage, and the police accused Janice of "bothering" such wealthy and respected people. With no one to help her solve the mystery, Janice would have to do it herself...

When schoolteacher, Janice, receives exciting news from her young actress sister that she's hastily wed, Janice changes her tour plans to visit Holly in a tiny village town in France.  However, when she arrives the wealthy household of Villa Fontaine is quite adamant that their heir, Jacques, has never been married.  They insist that Holly simply has been beguiled by someone masquerading as the young Jacques.  

Janice holds steadfast that her sister is sophisticated enough to realize whether she is marrying an impostor and when she is offered  a job sitting the elderly Mme. Simone, she stays on in hopes of solving the disappearance of her sister.

Life at Villa Fontaine is further complicated when she is befriended by a reporter, Neil, who says he's been stood up for an interview with Jacques.  He, too, finds this bit of irresponsibility uncharacteristic of the successful business tycoon.  A romance blooms between the two as Neil aids Janice in uncovering the secret of where her sister has gone.

Together, they journey into the hillsides and wilderness of France, into tiny towns where the locals have sinister accusations of Americans.  Holly is willing to risk her own life in order to save her sister from what she senses is certain peril.

All in all, this was a pretty good read.  It was a bit slow in parts when the searching through France became redundant.  It has several subplots and some atmospheric side stories that make for a quick-paced, descriptive read.  Recommend!

Dark Description:   Thunder again rolled through the sky.  Ominous.  On impulse I crossed to the window, opened a wedge between the drapes.  Lightning crackled across the night sky, illuminating the choppy, dark sea below.  I spied a ship coming into harbor.  Down the shore red lights blinked on and off, calling other ships into port...

Damsel In Peril:  I awoke with a startling suddenness, every nerve on alert.  Rain hammered at the windows.  The fire was completely obliterated when I'd expected the logs to smolder until dawn.  A heaviness in the room made my heart pound.  A labored breathing.

I was not alone.

I strained to penetrate the blackness.  Somebody stood before the closet.  Tall.  Heavy.  A man.

Trembling, I geared myself for action.  What good would I be to Holly dead?  I screamed.  One frenzied, terrified scream.  And with it I hurled myself over to the far side of the bed to the protectiveness of the floor.

I lay there.  Hearing the scurrying of heavy feet.  My door opened and closed.  I stumbled to my feet.  Too late to catch a glimpse of the intruder!

Interesting Food:  Desert:  Mousse and Coffee;  burnt almond pudding  with coffee ice cream and macaroons.  Dinner:  Creamed fillets of sole with oysters and shrimp served with thin wedges of toast.  Veal in read wine sauce.  Asparagus with peas.  Foie gras in gelatin.

Best Gothic Elements:  kidnapping, missing persons, mysterious disappearance, a lame person who works as gardener, rich tycoon, missing heir, animosity among locals toward tourists, a sinister butler/driver who is not trusted, domineering house maid, maid who steals and tries to frame tourist, small town secrets, and a huge villa mansion by the sea.

My Rating: