For more than five hundred years weary travelers have been coming to the Stranger House--an out-of-the-way inn in the tiny village of Illthwaite in Cumbria, England. Now two very different visitors have arrived here on the same dank and dreary autumn afternoon, each one driven by curiosity . . . and perilous purpose.
Australian math wizard Samantha "Sam" Flood is here searching for answers to a disturbing family mystery. Miguel Madero, former novice priest-turned-historical scholar, is exploring the links between an ancestor's bizarre disappearance and the people of Illthwaite. But Sam and Mig are not welcome in this town of secrets and silences. And when their personal quests become strangely intertwined, two determined seekers will find themselves drawn ever deeper into a fetid morass of deceit, mystery, and violence as they race to uncover the shocking truth about who they really are.
Fans of the witty Dalziel/Pascoe police procedurals (Good Morning, Midnight, etc.) by Diamond Dagger-winner Hill may be nonplussed by this stand-alone, a mix of historical mystery, gothic romance, ghost story and tutorial on religion and Norse mythology. Samantha "Sam" Flood, an Australian mathematics whiz, visits the isolated British village of Illthwaite before attending graduate school at Cambridge, hoping to discover the origins of her grandmother who emigrated from the place as a child. Miguel "Mig" Madero, a former novice priest now a history scholar, seeks the link between an ancestor who disappeared during the Spanish Armada defeat and a Catholic Illthwaite family. The villagers, quirky and devious, seem to know more than they'll reveal. Sam and Mig, initially antagonistic, join forces when their quests intersect. Spanning four centuries and related by several narrators, who slowly clarify the mystery, the book is too long and repetitive and seasoned with wild coincidences. Still, the engrossing historical background, especially Elizabeth I's campaign to eliminate English Catholicism, more than compensates.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
August 31, 2006
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Stranger House by Reginald Hill
On July 8th, 1992, a small girl woke up in her bed in her family house in the Australian state of Victoria and knew exactly who she was.
Samantha Flood, known to her friends as Sam and her family as Sammy, only child of Sam and Louisa Flood, granddaughter of Vince and Ada Flood, who between them had turned a patch of scrubby farmland on the fringe of the Goulburn Valley into the Vinada Winery which by the end of the eighties was winning golden opinions and medals to match at wine shows up to and including the Royal National Capital.
That morning Sam also knew two new things.
Today she was eleven years old and she was bleeding.
The bleeding was a shock. Not because Sam didn't know what it was. Her ma had explained it all years back, and she'd been taught stuff at school, and the lesson had been complete when her best friend, Martie Hopkins, started not long after she turned ten.
Ten was early. Martie was proud of being the first in their class, just like she was proud of the rest that came early too, the boobs and the bush. Sam was a skinny little thing, not just flat but practically concave. Martie, complacent in her new roundness, once joked in the school showers that you could serve soup on Sam's chest. Sam retorted that at least she wasn't a fat-arse, but secretly she envied Martie. They were always competing for top of the class and neither cared to see the other ahead in anything.
So the bleeding wasn't altogether unwelcome, but on her birthday it seemed lousy timing.
She called to her mother, who came into the bedroom and soon put things right, both inside and out. Lu Flood had a great talent for putting things right. As she sorted her daughter out, she remarked that some of my people reckoned it was lucky to start on your birthday. Lu had worked out she was one-seventh Aboriginal and there weren't many situations she hadn't got a bit of my people wisdom for. Her husband just grinned and said she made most of it up, while Sam, who loved playing around with numbers, worked out you couldn't be one-seventh something anyway, you had to be half or a quarter or an eighth, because everyone had two parents and four grandparents and so on.
It made no difference to Lu. One-seventh she was, which was a good proportion, seven being a lucky number, and Sam was one-fourteenth, which was twice as lucky.
Maths apart, Sam quite liked all this weird stuff her mother spouted about my people. It made her feel connected with that great emptiness outside her bedroom window. And if it got scary, which it did sometimes, the one-seventh (or onefourteenth) weirdness was more than balanced by the comfortable certainties she got from her father's side of the family.
She used to stagger to Gramma Ada with her great heavy leather-bound photo album and ask to be told about the folk whose faces stared out at her. She liked it best when they got to the old sepia photos where the men had beards or heavy mustaches and the women wore long dresses and everyone looked like they'd been shot and taken to a taxidermist. Gramma knew all their names, all their stories.
With history like this, Sam knew for certain who she was, so it didn't matter when Ma's stories got a bit frightening, there was nothing in them that those old sepia men with their big mustaches and unblinking stares couldn't deal with.
That morning as Lu cleaned Sam up, she recalled that up north where my people came from, when a girl started bleeding, she had to live by herself for a month or so, lying face-down in a hut so she couldn't see the sun, because if she did, her nose would go rotten.
"So there you are, Sam," she said when she'd finished. "Your choice. You can either head out to the old brewhouse and lie flat for a few weeks, or you can take your chances, come downstairs and open your prezzies."