Mary Stewart, The Stormy Petrel
Dr. Rose Fenemore is a Cambridge professor and poet who desperately needs a little peace and quiet. She decides to rent a cottage on the remote Scottish island of Moila during her summer holiday, where her brother Crispin, a bird-watching enthusiast, will later join her. When Rose reaches Moila, she’s delighted by the beautiful scenery and the isolation of her “ivory tower.” But on her very first night, her solitude is interrupted: a bad storm brings two very different men to her door. The first, Ewan Mackay, is a handsome charmer who claims to be related to the cottage’s former occupants, but something in his story doesn’t quite add up. The second man, John Parsons, is clearly hiding something — including his real name — and he seems to recognize Ewan. As Rose furthers her acquaintance with both men, she discovers some wrongdoing and has to decide whom she can trust.
I like Mary Stewart’s novels, and this one is a pleasant, non-taxing read. The suspense element is much lighter in this book than in most of her others. Rose is never particularly in danger, and the wrongdoing at issue involves thievery rather than violence. There’s also not very much to the romance plot in this book. Normally, Stewart’s heroines are torn between two men, and it’s not immediately obvious who is the hero and who the villain. But in this book, it’s pretty clear from the outset, and Rose never really has to change her opinion of either man in the course of the novel. The book’s main attraction isn’t romance or suspense, but rather the lovely descriptions of the island and its wildlife. I don’t normally read for setting, and in fact I tend to skim long descriptive passages, but in this case the book just made me want to vacation on a Scottish island! So while nothing in the novel really grabbed me, it’s a perfectly fine summer read.