The House at Riverton (2007; Pan Books)
The Forgotten Garden (2008; Pan Books)
The Distant Hours (2010; Atria)
Kate Morton hails from Australia, but all of her books are set in England. I don't know if she has visited England, but her books have a remarkable sense of "place." And her three books bear other remarkable similarities to each other:
- a mysterious estate or castle in England filled with dark family secrets
- aging family members who've held those secrets close
- modern (ca. 1990s) heroine who finds tangible evidence of said secrets (like, a letter)
- the awareness on the part of modern heroine that her own mother is somehow intimately connected with the mysterious castle and its strange inhabitants
- the revelation of said secrets through sleuthing by the modern heroine
- the gradual understanding of her own mother and family through the knowledge gained
- said secrets encompassing multiple issues: emotional love affairs and/or murder and/or suicide and/or betrayal and/or madness in the family...
- and an intricate plot slowly unraveled through jumping back and forth in time and between various narrators
I must confess that I don't enjoy the actual secrets that are revealed too much because they're often depressing, sordid, or just plain wrong--but the journey there is addictive. I like that Morton's books are pretty clean in the sense of anything being described explicitly, little foul language, and the like; but the dark family secrets involve some messy "stuff."
Is it possible to write a gripping mystery and dark Gothic novel without having the main historical characters be so disturbing? I know I haven't actually *read* Jane Eyre, but I know that's a good example of having dark secrets (and even a mad woman!). Hmm.... worth pondering.
For now, I space these kinds of books out in my reading...too much rich chocolate cake isn't good for me :-).