Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stormy Petrel – Mary Stewart

My second Mary Stewart and I remain intrigued. This one was first published in 1991. I’m a bit obsessive about when books are published and when they’re set. According to Wikipedia Mary Stewart was born in 1916 which would have made her about 74 when she was writing this so although on the surface the action is early nineties mood wise it feels a decade or two earlier. This is probably only important to me but it plays on my mind and I felt a lot happier when I’d worked out to my own satisfaction ‘when’ I was.

My frame of reference for Mary Stewart is ‘Wildfire at Midnight’ (although on the strength of these two books I’ve bought more) ‘Stormy Petrel’ is quite a different proposition. Rose Fenemore is looking for a bolt hole at the end of term (she’s a Cambridge don, science fiction writer, and minor poet so deserves a holiday albeit a working one), her brother Crispin is looking for some bird watching so they both settle happily on a cottage in the western isles. Rose arrives safely and settles in but Crispin is delayed but the natives seem friendly and she has plenty of writing to do so even a rising storm doesn’t seem like a problem – until that is Rose wakes up to find a strange man in her kitchen closely followed by a second strange man who definitely isn’t who he says he is... (This has actually happened to me – in a student flat, we were woken up at 2am by the sound of hoovering, we knew something was wrong because we rarely hoovered, 3 drunken men from somewhere had managed to open our door and thought a bit of housework was in order. It was disconcerting.)

I digress. Rose isn’t best pleased especially as it becomes clear that things don’t add up and it all becomes a bit menacing. What I particularly liked about ‘Stormy Petrel’ is that instead of a murder and a hero suspected of the crime there’s a bit of suspected smuggling and fraud which feels very believable and makes the romance a bit less worrying. There is also an excellent sub plot about the eventual fate of the island and the question of Rose’s future as a single lady. The other thing I liked about this later book was that instead of a whirlwind entanglement with a swarthy dangerous charmer there’s a slow getting to know a nice geologist.

I can think of no better way of putting it than to say this was a thoroughly nice, thoroughly enjoyable book. It hasn’t changed my life but I’m pretty sure I’ll read it again and the Scottish one is eyeing it up too. The descriptions of the islands scenery and wildlife are really wonderful, the plot maintains an agreeable tension throughout and it’s an excellent comfort read which is just what I’ve been in the mood for, the only question remaining is this – will I have the self control to save some of those unread Stewart’s for my holiday next month?

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read this one Hayley so it's a treat in store. I started reading Stewart and couldn't stop myself reading through the pile on the shelves!