When Maria becomes a summertime au pair to the children of a Scottish lord, she discovers the family is living under the shadow of two suspicious deaths. Vanishing portraits, cloaked figures, and bizarre shrines add up to a compelling Modern Gothic psychological mystery. (Summary and image from goodreads.com. I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review)
Review: Within the span of a bag of potato chips, Maria's life has been turned upside down. Her mother murdered, her own life in danger from a terrorist organization, she is forced to enter the Witness Protection Program, quickly briefed on her new identity, and sent to Scotland as an au pair for the summer, a safer location than she worries anywhere else in the U.S. would be. But the circumstances of the job get odder and odder, and Maria finds herself wondering if there's something more going on in the estate than is of this world.
Griffith is clearly a fan of some of my favorite gothic works, specifically Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and The Turning of the Screw. She borrows liberally from all three sources to craft her world, either from plot points, the presence of the works in the story, or having her characters pointing out the similarities in certain passages. The suspense she is able to paint is quite real, propelling the reader through a quick and creepy read.
Unfortunately, there was quite a bit that didn't work with the story. The fact that Griffith relies so heavily on the tropes so perfectly executed in the three works doesn't allow her to have her characters react authentically for this era or the world she has created for them. They're doomed to repeat the actions, mistakes, and triumphs of the classic characters they are based upon. The problem with that is that, invariably, I ended up comparing them quite critically to the characters I know and love, and hers were found wanting. There were too many suspenseful passages that were left unresolved and forgotten, the effort to modernize the stories wasn't strong enough to make it feel realistic.
Finally, I had an extremely difficult time with the numerous grammatical and spelling errors throughout the book. Not only were words misused (rivets were cried instead of rivulets), dialectal words were used inconsistently. Had this been an ARC, I would have dismissed them, but sadly that wasn't the case. It's too important as an author to assume the intelligence of your reader. If they're able to find a correct usage or etymological history in a six minute google search on their phones, so should an author or an editor.
I was left feeling wanting at the end of the book. It was definitely a book that could have been a bang, but ended up being a whimper.
Rating: One and a half stars
For the Sensitive Reader: There are a few murders, some fade to black scenes, allusions to infidelity, nothing terrible but much was unnecessary to the plot either.