Monday, September 20, 2010

Mary Stewart: Wildfire at Midnight

In Wildfire at Midnight, published in 1956, Stewart weaves a Gothic novel full of mystery, menace, and suspense.  Gianetta Brook needs to get away from it all, and she chooses Scottish Isle of Skye as her getaway. Little does she know that her ex-husband, Nicholas Drury is also vacationing there. She is also unaware until she meets some of the people she is staying with that there has been a brutal murder on one of the mountains, Blaven, there.

A full cast of characters makes this an intriguing and likable novel from the outset. When two climbers go missing, spooky threats are made, storms pound the Isle, and other murders are discovered, the tension rises. Who is the murderer? Can Gianetta even trust her ex-husband?

Plot: 5/5 [The pace moves quickly, and the novel doesn't get bogged down by too much lengthy description. The reader is there in the mountains with the panoramic views, but the action moves along well.]

Characterization: 4/5 [I had a little trouble keeping the many characters straight for the first 100 pages or so, but overall, Stewart does a nice job of painting the main characters and many secondary ones. I could see Gianetta as Maggie Gyllenhaal and Nicholas as Clive Owen. Mr. Hay I pictured as Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Marsha Maling played by Marcia Cross. Roderick brought Robert Redford (when he was younger) to mind.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [It took a while for these elements to build, but the murder, when Gianetta hears about it, is shocking, and the theories about it are even more shocking. I got a chill thinking about the fire and about the true intent of the murderer. Other chills and thrills follow; this novel reads especially well in gray, stormy weather like we've been having these past few days.]

Literary? 5/5 [Yes, references to pop icons as well as to current events are sprinkled throughout along with philosophy and other tidbits from history and art.]

Romance? Yes, of several types. Stewart definitely tests the bounds of conventionality for the time with portrayals of divorce, promiscuity, and borderline lesbianism, but she does it in context of the London jet set of the time.

4+ stars  ****+

** I recommend this one. It just might be my favorite of the Mary Stewart novels I have read thus far, in fact. It has the feeling of a Gothic, of a whodunnit and of a cozy mystery with an edge.


jwade19 said...

Yes, isn't it good? You made a great point about reading it during dreary weather. It's a perfect curl up with some hot chocolate on a rainy day kind of book.

Carolannkg said...

I love this one, thanks for featuring it, as I've been trying to think of the title for ages... The story certainly stayed in my mind - I can see I'm going to have to reread all my Mary Stewart books again :-) such a hardship lol!

lisalgreer said...

Carolann, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I am having to reread a lot of the old ones I loved to do reviews. I hadn't read this one, believe it or not. I have been very late to Stewart's work for some reason, so I always feel funny reviewing her novels.

Sandy said...

I actually already own this book but I haven't read it yet. Your review has encouraged me to do so soon. I just found your blog and am so excited to read all your old reviews. The old Gothic Romance of the 50's, 60's, early 70's are my ultimate favorite reading experience. I agree with you that weather is really a factor to reading enjoyment. Please keep up the great work!
Clark Brady

lisalgreer said...

Hi, Clark. I really appreciate your kind words, and I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. :) I plan to keep at it for a while; I enjoy it, and there seems to be a niche for it. I hope you like the novel!

Fiddlette said...

I enjoy reading your blog very much, too...i discovered some time back and it is right up my alley...I have loved gothic and romantic suspense my whole life...and it is so cool to find others who love it as much as I...

that said, I do not always love the same books, and sometimes I do...but it is always a pleasure to read a differing opinion!

I loved this Stewart book, too...although not as good as my current fave of hers, which is Madam, Will You Talk, but right up there!

Gothic Writer said...

Hi, Fiddlette. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! It is funny how differently folks can feel about the same novel. I agree with you at times about Whitney. She can be a so so read for me. I prefer her earlier stuff...

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