The second, in publication order, of Mary Stewart’s Romantic Suspense novels, Wildfire at Midnight is again a story told from the point of view of an intelligent and somewhat observant young woman, Gianetta Brooke, who was previously married and is off on a holiday, only to discover that something nefarious has recently occurred, and finding herself suddenly in the thick of it. Our heroine this time out, however, is a model with hard-won sophistication whose artist ex-husband just happens to be at the same remote inn on the Isle of Skye.
Set during a time when momentous occasions are happening at a distance, this suspenseful tale of mountaineering and ritualistic murder has the feel of a set piece, of something easily translated to the stage or screen. Something the author must have intended, with the mingling of this set of characters in a story with such a feeling of being cut off from the world, and having Gianetta herself compare it to the “opening of a bad problem play.”
Though the reader may find their suspicions moving from player to player, Gianetta can’t seem to shake her suspicion of one man over the rest. And though she is aware of “the classic folly” of fictional damsels, she still finds herself going off fishing and joining a search party on the moors despite the continuing danger.
A bit gothic, a bit of melodrama, and a whole lot of 1950’s Romantic Suspense fun. Again the nostalgic feel enhances the reading of what must have been a thrilling read in 1956. Where Charity Selborne raced across the French countryside, Gianetta Brooke runs along deer paths and finds herself poised on cliff edges, but both are hurtling towards danger, sudden romance, and a second marriage. And again, it is the writing that makes the story worth the read all these decades later, leaving me very much looking forward to continuing my read-through of Mary Stewart’s suspense novels in publication order.
Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart | Chicago Review Press, 2012, copyright 1956 by Mary Stewart | paperback, 214 pages
This review refers to a copy borrowed from my local library. All opinions expressed are my own.