I loved this book! It was one of those that once I started reading it I didn't want to stop, was frankly resentful of anything and anyone that did make me stop, and didn't want it to end either.
It's the second sort of crime novel I've read by Susan Pleydell, and it's even better than 'The Glenvarroch Gathering'* that I enjoyed so much last year. Briefly, 'The Road to the Harbour', originally published in 1966, tells the story of Anthea Logan. She's in her late 20's, is as conventionally attractive as the heroine of a romance should be, and has had a fairly rough time of it. Seven years before the book starts she had a promising career as a journalist and was falling in love with a colleague by the name of Jock.
Unfortunately the love affair didn't work out so well, and her career takes a nose dive when her brother is found guilty of selling secrets to (presumably) the Russians. He goes to prison and she's left to deal with the repercussions it has within her immediate family - as is often the lot of women.
Seven years later her parents have both died, and Anthea is ready to start again. She heads to Balgarvie, a Scottish fishing village she fell in love with as a teenager, and which seems like just the place for a second chance. She books into its famous sporting hotel, where she's the subject of much speculation (sporting hotels are not normally the first choice of glamorous, young, single, women), and then things start to go wrong. (There may be spoilers ahead).
There's a waiter who comes on a bit to strong and resents being knocked back, a cousin who decides to dislike her, the ex has bought the house she had her eye on, and then a document goes missing and the scandal with her brother comes back to haunt her.
I think it works so well because nothing really terrible happens to Anthea, but it's all so believably grim. Of course she gives up her life in London to support her parents, because they clearly need the support and it's what a good daughter would do - as well as offering an escape from the publicity of the situation. Men making inappropriate passes at women aren't unusual either, and the vindictive reaction of this one seems entirely likely. The disturbing presence of the ex makes sense as well, and the business with the missing document is a reminder that mud sticks.
Pleydell does an excellent job of taking these elements and really ratcheting up the tension. Its not life and death, which made for a nice change of pace after all the murder mystery's I've been reading, but they're still things that matter, that would matter if they happened to us, and are not so far from the things that do happen to us. It puts me in mind of Trollope and all the trouble over misplaced cheques and promissory notes, and how absorbing that becomes.
* Both have come from Greyladies and in due course I'll be ordering the rest of the Pleydell's they have in print.