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 ****+