RogerBW's Blog

Stormy Petrel, Mary Stewart 21 March 2020

1991 romantic suspense. Rose Fenemore is an English tutor at Cambridge, as well as a poet and author. She takes a cottage on the western Scottish island of Moila to have a writing retreat free of distraction. But why do two young men end up in her living-room one stormy night?

This is in some ways a faded copy of Stewart in her early days. Will someone turn out to be a criminal? Yes, but nobody will be placed at any particular risk, and they'll be caught and hauled off by the police, admittedly with some help from our heroine. Will there be a romance? Yes, of course, but it's very much the beginning of the romance, with no passionate moments even if both of them may think it likely that those are in their future.

But Stewart was 75 and I think she can be allowed to want to take things a bit easy, and not every book has to be non-stop peril. There may not be desperate midnight scrambles or towering passions here, but there is a solid story with people in it, and wild landscapes. Two separate solid stories, in a way; after the criminal is dealt with, a property developer comes with the intention of turning Moila into a resort, and there's only a loose connection between the two plots. And here's where Stewart at 75 can still shine: rather than being a stock villain, he's an interesting person, and who he is is a key part of how the ruination of the island can be prevented.

It's a sleepy and sometimes slow book, certainly without the thud and blunder of the 1960s adventure stories where usually something Sinister would have happened by the end of chapter 1, but it still has its moments.

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  1. Posted by Peggi at 10:47pm on 28 March 2020

    I really should go back and read some more Stewart some time soon.

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