From the dust jacket:
Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was just a girl, before the First World War. For years, her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline.
In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the House, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline and only they – and Grace – know the truth.
The novel opens in 1999 when Grace is ninety-eight years old, living out her last days in a nursing home. She is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer in 1924. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace’s youth during the last days of the Edwardian aristocratic privelege shattered by war, of the vibrant 1920s and of the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever.
The novel is full of secrets – sometimes revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne du Maurier. It is also a meditation on memory, the devastation of war and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history.
From the start, The House at Riverton reminded me of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, a book I loved. Both are gothic mysteries, both are told in flashback sequences, and both entail a secret that has never been divulged. Though I have to say my heart still lies with The Thirteenth Tale, this novel was well-written and is a fine addition to the gothic mystery genre.
There are two mysteries at the heart of this novel, one of which is mentioned in the summary. What really happened by the lake that ended in the young poet’s suicide was a shock; I didn’t see it coming at all. However, I was able to guess at the answer to the second mystery (I don’t want to elaborate because it would take away your enjoyment of the book!) very easily, and correctly. While I don’t like mysteries in books to be so convoluted as to seem unlikely, neither do I like it when the answer is too easy to discern too quickly.
The details about the Edwardian period of England, as well as the quick decline into World War I and then the roaring ’20’s was a delight to read. The details are wonderful, and it is shocking how quickly England goes from a world of corsets to a world of flappers. It is obviously well researched and the details about life in that shifting time period are enjoyable to read.
This book should appeal to multiple readers. It is primarily a gothic mystery, while also falling into the category of historical fiction. It is an enjoyable read, and while it does stumble a bit here and there, overall it is a well-written and engrossing mystery that anyone should enjoy.