I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine
Release date: August 2nd, 2016
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Mystery, historical fiction
Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves London and her strained relationship behind for Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She intends to renovate the ruinous house into a hotel, but the shocking discovery of human remains brings her ambitious restoration plans to an abrupt halt before they even begin. Few physical clues are left to identify the body, but one thing is certain: this person did not die a natural death.
Hungry for answers, Hetty discovers that Muirlan was once the refuge of her distant relative Theo Blake, the acclaimed painter and naturalist who brought his new bride, Beatrice, there in 1910. Yet ancient gossip and a handful of leads reveal that their marriage was far from perfect; Beatrice eventually vanished from the island, never to return, and Theo withdrew from society, his paintings becoming increasingly dark and disturbing.
What happened between them has remained a mystery, but as Hetty listens to the locals and studies the masterful paintings produced by Theo during his short-lived marriage, she uncovers secrets that still reverberate through the small island community—and will lead her to the identity of the long-hidden body.
It’s been a while since I read “adult fiction” and I couldn’t be happier with my book choice! The House Between Tides is a wonderfully written slow burner. I can best compare it to a puzzle: tiny pieces are slowly connected to solve a murder mystery that stretches across decades. The book takes places during two time periods. In 2010, Hetty Devereaux visits her long abandoned family home, Muirlan House, in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She wants to escape her life in London and transform the derelict house into a hotel. However, the discovery of human remains complicates things and leads her to explore her family’s past. The other time period is between 1910-11 and focuses on the relationship between a painter, Theo Blake, and his young wife Beatrice.
I read the novel, about 400 pages in length, in one day. It was completely engaging and all consuming. I made a lot of the connections on my own and did correctly predict where some of the storylines were going, but the end? I didn’t see it coming and I’m always delighted when that happens. I’m also not usually a fan of multiple narratives, but switching between time periods and the people in them added a lot of depth and even more mystery. I wasn’t ever sure what was real because each character had so many secrets and told so many half truths. Of course, this just kept me even more interested to read on and find out what would happen. A huge pull for me was the atmosphere of the book. It was very gothic with the moody Scottish weather, the old crumbling buildings and isolated island. And the descriptions were spot on. I could clearly capture the the location and Blake’s paintings in my mind.
The only weakness was its one dimensional portrayal of some of its secondary characters. Hetty’s boyfriend Giles and his team of bankers and lawyers who push her to turn the old house into a hotel resort come across as power hungry and absorbed in their self worth. They are “bad” because they ignore Hetty’s wishes and are all consumed by money and business. I didn’t really know them at all and in a way, it made me like Hetty less. Why stay with a man like Giles? It simply didn’t match how she was characterized in the rest of the novel.
I would like to point out that this novel was originally released in 2014 with the title Bhalla Strand, but I am very happy that Atria is publishing it again. From what I can tell, some names and location have been changed. I definitely recommend this book. It’s a fantastic blend of historical fiction, romance and mystery that stays with you long after you finish.