Book Review: The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
When Emily goes on vacation to the Chateau Chinon, she expects the rich atmosphere, steeped in the intertwined histories of France and England. Her cousin Harry has been researching a long-lost treasure, supposed to have been left by Queen Isabelle when she left the Chateau as it was under siege. When Harry fails to meet her for their mini treasure-hunt, she assumes that he has been distracted by some new scheme and sets out to enjoy her vacation on her own. The group of tourists at the hotel have their own secrets, and Emily is led into another mystery–this one from the Second World War–about a young woman named Isabelle. As Emily becomes increasingly embroiled in the mysteries and their relationship to the other tourists she’s staying with, she begins to wonder whether Harry’s absence is just a delay or something more sinister. When murder strikes, Emily knows it’s only a matter of time before her own life is on the line.
I am definitely a big fan of Kearsley’s writing. I’ve read most of her books (that I know of) and have generally enjoyed them. Though The Splendour Falls was good enough, however, it really didn’t seem like her best work. It just lacked the magnetism I’ve felt in her writing before. Where I have often found myself riveted by the historical aspects/storylines in her books, and how they end up playing into the plot, The Splendour Falls was just mediocre. The plot wasn’t pointed enough for me. It felt fragmented–several different unrelated stories within a story–and there wasn’t a unifying conclusion. All the different story-lines concluded, but not together. It felt like the book went on too long and then resolved a bit randomly.
Emily was on vacation, but she didn’t feel like she had any real purpose beyond that. She wasn’t particularly bringing anything to the historical aspect of the mystery–it seemed like everything she knew about history was a result of her good-naturedly tolerating her cousin’s passion for it. As far as main characters go, especially in Kearsley’s novels, Emily was one of my least favorite to date.
Upon further research, I realized that The Splendour Falls was one of Kearsley’s first published novels. That both explains the incongruity of the writing style, and honestly makes me admire Kearsley as a writer a bit more. She has definitely developed her voice and strengthened her writing skills overall in the past decade or so.
Overall, this was a win for Kearsley in my book, just because it illustrates how much her writing has improved. As far as the book itself goes though, I was not overwhelmed. It was okay. If you like historical fiction, you can give it a go, but I think it’s best purpose is as an illustration for how much Kearsley’s writing style has improved.
It’s okay: 3 out of 5 stars