Today I am reviewing one of Ferrars’ non-series titles. A plane is being specially chartered to take Mark Auty’s 9 guests to a villa in Nice, for a weekend trip. A generous gesture you may think, but let’s just say Mark’s motivations are far from innocent. Why has Mark really invited them? And why did they all accept? All will be revealed once murder has struck…
The story starts off with the 9 guests and their thoughts about the invitation they have received. We begin to get an inkling as to why they might be going, as well as getting a chance to see their state of living. They come from different walks of life, yet they all seem to know Mark one way or another. However, there is something special about the 9th guest, Sarah Wing. She bumps into Mark accidently on her way home, after having witnessed an accident. She is in shock, and worried that the accident was not all that it appeared to be. It is this chance encounter which leads Mark to invite her to the weekend away, wanting someone there he can trust. She is the character we stay closest to during the rest of the book. Yet when she, along with the others convene at Mark’s home before the flight, it quickly becomes apparent that more is afoot.
Perusing this description of the book, a seasoned mystery reader is likely to think that they know what sort of story they are going to be getting – the country house murder mystery on holiday. However, Ferrars very much takes her plot in an alternative direction, having murder strike before anyone has got on the plane, and ultimately the trip away has a different purpose altogether. Not least being a lure for both the characters and the reader.
What this novel does well is its misdirection; a skill I have seen Ferrars demonstrate in other mysteries she wrote. Her choice of protagonist is partially important in this but is not the only weapon in her arsenal. The reader has to be careful of what they choose to believe and like the suspects they need to sift the evidence and information they are given. This assessment process after the murder is the primary focus of the narrative, with the police very much in the background. There is definitely a puzzle element to this tale as the reader has to consider whether one suspect has deliberately lied or been mistaken about what they saw.
However, I think the main weakness of the book is the convoluted nature of its ending. Having successfully misdirected the reader, and posed an interesting situation, the finale is disappointing and could have been clearer and neater. There is also a lot of conversation in this book and I wonder whether all of it adds to the story and therefore the reader’s enjoyment.
See also: Moira at Clothes in Books has also reviewed this title here. Also like Moira I really hope there was typo when a character said they were looking forward to wearing their topless dress…