Thursday, January 2, 2014

Peril at Somner House by Joanna Challis

This is the second in the Daphne Du Maurier series. Daphne and her older sister Angela are going to Somner House to spend a few weeks in the winter.  Angela's friend, Kate and her husband Max own the house in Cornwall.  Daphne loves the area. The sisters are at the house for two days when Max's body is discovered. Of course Daphne will try to figure out who is the culprit. She has help from Sir Marcus, another one of the guests and the Major, who just happens to show up yet again.  Daphne is angry with him for not answering her letters and after what they went through in the first book, Murder on the Cliffs. Daphne feels they have started a relationship but does the Major feel the same way?

From the publisher:
After her adventures in Murder on the Cliffs, young Daphne du Maurier travels to a remote island off the coast of Cornwall to visit the estate of Lord and Lady Trevalyan. Somner House, enchanting amidst lush exotic wilderness and only a moment’s walk to the sea, beguiles Daphne, but just as looming winter storms begin to envelop the island, the Lord is found murdered while the Lady is found in the arms of a lover. Even Daphne with her torrid imagination could not have dreamed that she would become ensnared in the vile, villainous schemes being hatched within the walls of Somner House—or that a handsome stranger would inspire her to plumb the depths of a great mystery.

Chapter One
“Daphne, hurry up! We’ll miss the boat.”
Scribbling into my notebook, I pushed back my chair to face an impatient sister. “Angela, you above any ought to understand. I had the most fabulous sentence! A sweeping statement of—”
“That’s great. Now you can sweep yourself out the door.”
Sighing, I glanced outside. “We still have five minutes. The boat won’t leave without us.”
“Oh, yes it will.”
I watched my elder sister storm out of the inn and thought I had better follow without complaint.
Running along to catch up with her brisk, angry walk, I wondered what ailed her. The food? The bad coffee at the inn? Lack of sleep, perhaps? I shook my head. Truly, a fellow writer should know better than to disturb one’s sudden inspiration. “Angela! Wait!”
But she did not wait, nor did she answer me as I hastened down to the boat ramp, admiring her poise and skillful attire.
We were going to an island to find inspiration for our art. Why did she have such a glum look about her?
She had been rather irritable of late. But I didn’t know the reasons behind her moods. Shrugging my shoulders, I boarded the swaying and weathered old ferryboat, pausing to appreciate the colors swirling in the murky sea below. The sea, so mysterious and changeable, always fascinated me.
“St. Mary’s Island.” I pointed excitably when we eventually navigated across the rocky waves and land came into view.
Angela snapped the window shut. “It’s raining. Can’t you see? Really, Daphne, sometimes you just—”
“Live in a world of my own? I know I do. So? What’s bothering you? Is it Francis again?”
She sniffed. “Captain Burke can go to hell for all I care.”
“Then he won’t be joining us at Somner House?”
“He’d better not.”
This was news to me, for though she did not share a great deal with me, unlike our younger sister Jeanne, Angela had confided that the dashing Captain, hero of the war, had proposed to her last month. Angela had yet to give him an answer; had her delay rattled the Captain’s pride enough for him to withdraw his proposal and move to more receptive pastures?
Letting it go, her mulish mood curtailing conversation, I contented myself with watching my fellow passengers: families, lovers, couples, friends, and lone boarders. It was a great mixture of passengers on this mid-morning ferry crossing, always a popular time according to Kate Trevalyan. Or, I should say, Lady Kate Trevalyan.
Intrigued to meet this paragon of beauty and sophistication, I had hoped to learn a little more information about her, and about any others we’d be spending the wintry days with at Somner House, but my sister had been resolutely mysterious about her friends.
I couldn’t wait for our visit. A few weeks dedicated to nothing but the search for inspiration. Though in truth, wherever I went inspiration seemed to find me. During my last vacation, a simple visit to my father’s nurse had led to the now famous Victoria Bastion case. “The dead bride on the beach,” I whispered to the wind.
“What did you say?”
“Oh, nothing.” I smiled, changing the subject. “But I would like to know more about Somner House. It’s very selfish of you to keep all the details to yourself.”
Despite my rebuke, Angela refused to comply. “I don’t know,” she’d say, and shrug as I posed question after question. It annoyed me, as I sensed our trip served a particular purpose, a purpose she kept secret. It seemed she needed family support, for why else would she have asked me, her troublesome little sister, to accompany her to visit friends at Somner House? She never wanted me to have anything to do with her friends in the past.
“They’re sending a car for us,” Angela obliged upon arrival at the island, as we waited in line to disembark the ferry. “They say we’re to wait at the Three Oaks Inn … oh, look, it’s over there.”
I turned to view the hazy shoreline village. “But what of our luggage?”
“Oh, yes. I suppose we’ll need that, won’t we?”
Her mind was clearly elsewhere. I wished she would confide in me, even just a little.
Angela’s coy smile inspired the boatmen to carry our luggage across the street, leaving us to huddle under my umbrella. At least I had the good sense to bring one.
I’d never been to such a remote island during such a season. Ordinarily our trips included destinations of the obvious choices: Paris, Europe, Italy, and cruising the Mediterranean, where sunny Greek islands differed so greatly from our British ones. Yet I preferred our island to Greece’s stark white buildings and still, turquoise sea. There was something wild and ungoverned in the depths of Cornwall, an untamed coastline filled with stories of pirates and legends stretching back to King Arthur’s time.

To read more, click here.

Pages: 295
Published: 2010

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