Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville which focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.
After ten long years of living as an orphan and expatriate in England, Linda Martin has finally returned to Paris. There is something right about the cool spring night, and how the language has come back like it never fell into disuse. Although she enters the country as a governess and technically hired help, Linda is relieved to come home, even if it is to the great estate Chateau Valmy outside of Paris. Her charge, nine-year-old Phillipe, is an orphan himself, living with his uncle Leon and aunt Heloise, and is due to inherit Valmy when he comes of age. As comforting as it is for Linda to be in France there is an underlying feeling of wrongness to the estate, managed by charming, imposing Leon and cold, remote Heloise de Valmy. Beneath his own charm and attention to Linda, Leon’s son Raoul even bears a resemblance to his father that is both uncanny and a little frightening. As mysterious accidents begin to happen without a logical explanation Linda realizes her fears are founded, but who can she trust, and how can she keep herself and Phillipe safe?
I’m just going to come out and say it: Nine Coaches Waiting was an absolutely lovely read from which my senses haven’t fully disengaged. The lush, evocative writing describing a dreamy, heady Paris drew me in from the first pages. Then it was the characterization. Linda, and her own unknown past – fond and painful memories both wrapped up in this iconic place – and I was intrigued. What was this loneliness that she carried with her? I immediately connected and sympathized with the conflicting nostalgia and disquiet she felt so acutely from the time she stepped off the plane onto the wet tarmac. Amongst such an atmosphere, little by little the sense of foreboding builds and builds until the feared danger is confirmed. Then the suspense! It does not let up even when you think it should be clear who is guilty and who is not. And then if your heart hasn’t already broken from the pounding it is threatened by heartbreak of another kind. Of course I would also be remiss to leave out the hints of Jane Eyre and Rebecca – a great, haunting estate, a governess, a mysterious master, a Gothic air, and a bit of romance (complete with sigh-inducing declarations) which made this all the more enjoyable. Add to it fully-fleshed characters and thoughtful dialogue and I’m hard pressed to find any fault with this atmospheric, cozy mystery. Nine Coaches Waiting was a fine introduction to Mary Stewart and the perfect comfort, rainy day read. I suspect this will grow even fonder in a reread and I can’t wait to read more by this author. She is not to be missed.
Note: I read this along with Chachic, which was a blast. She is the proud owner of the newest (and prettiest) edition on the top right. Head on over to see what she thought of the book. And if you’re interested, you can check out my status updates as I read the book. As is often the case, many thanks go to Angie for introducing another wonderful author to us.