What a strange book. Set in WWI, Francesca Hatton (annoyingly called Cesca by her family) is responsible for handling her dear grandfather's affairs upon his death from illness. Francesca is the last Hatton - her grandfather had raised her and her five male cousins after the respective deaths of their parents, but all five cousins were killed in the war. Francesca adored her grandfather and her happy childhood; however, when various family secrets emerge after the reading of her grandfather's will and events at his funeral, she begins to question whether she really knew him at all.
Francesca is confronted with two pieces of property that she didn't know existed; a disposition requiring her to remove the murder stone, a large rock she and her cousins used to play on; and the confrontation from a stranger named Richard Leighton that Francis Hatton killed his mother many years ago.
The book was very difficult to get into - the writing was so italicized
and melodramatic and there were ..... galore. The book was written in third person, but frequently would be inside Francesca's tortured head. At first, I thought it was appalling, but once I realized it was intended
to be written in a very gothic style, I adjusted and began really enjoying the story. Francesca is more of a Marian Halcombe than a Laura Fairlie - she had spunk and constantly reminded herself that SHE WAS A HATTON for crying out loud whenever there were dangerous or emotionally annoying situations to be confronted. And Leighton is certainly a brooding hero. And of course, there are the loyal old servants who go around muttering things like "it ain't right" whenever some evil person comes to besmirch Francis Hatton's good name.
So, I thought it was pretty okay but there were so many things that I was/am still confused about:
1. The family mysteries - perhaps I wasn't paying close attention, but was it resolved whether Francesca and her cousins were really her grandfather's grandchildren? Was Francis Francesca's father (so alliterative)? Was Victoria truly Francesca's mother? Where was she in all the intervening years after leaving her family and popping up to ruin Francesca's wedding? Was she the one who sent all the notes?
2. Also at one point when talking about his mother's disappearance, Leighton expressed that he had thought an old man like Francis could never physically please a woman like his mother, but after seeing a picture of the old dawg, changed his mind. Ew, on many levels.
3. The cousins. This could have easily been about Francesca and maybe one cousin, if that, but instead there was an unnecessary amount of dead cousins. They never distinguished themselves in my mind, even though they were constantly referred to by the single personality trait that defined them. For example, Robin was always referred to as practical. You could not read his name without someone also saying "well, that was Robin...always practical" or "practical Robin always had a back up plan" or even Robin's own narration "I have always been practical." Even their strange ghostly voice over chapters were indistinguishable from one another.
4. The multitude of plotlines. I understand we need several suspects to make it an interesting mystery. BUT there was so much going on and little follow through. Just one example is the shooter. Why was there a shooter? Who was he shooting - just cows? Was he trying to kill people? WAS IT REALLY PETER? So many mysteries, so little time.
4. The ending. So. Victoria emerges and we learn that she is a pretty terrible person. She didn't give two figs about her new husband and small Richard and essentially disappeared so that she could embark on a one woman mission to bring Francis down. She tells Francesca that she is her mother (!) and that Francis is her father (!!) so she cannot marry Leighton because he is her half brother and if Francesca ignores her, she will interrupt the wedding and confess all - shattering Leighton's image of his angelic, martyred mother and rendering Leighton's half sister illegitimate in the process. So Francesca frets about what to do and then, when Victoria comes again to issue her final warning, SHOOTS AND KILLS HER. And covers it up with the help from aforementioned servants and gets married and lives happily ever after. The End. I don't even know what to think about this. I guess I'm glad Victoria died because how else were Richard and Francesca going to live happily ever after, but she MURDERS her future mother-in-law / possibly own mother in cold blood ON HER WEDDING DAY and was like, oh hehoha, time to get to the church. The mind boggles.