My surprise read of the fall! Nine Coaches Waiting made its way to my reading list because it was picked by my sister in our book club. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much. (But, boy, was I wrong!)
Linda Martin returns to her native France in this mystery/suspense novel that was originally published as a serial in a magazine. Linda, who has spent the past several years in an orphanage in England after the death of her parents, has been secured to perform the role of governess to a young heir – Phillipe de Valmy. I was thrown a little, right off the bat, when Mary Stewart began peppering bits of conversation in French without benefit of translation. But I soon learned that nothing of consequence was ever disclosed in the foreign snippets of dialogue and could easily bypass those bits of text as the book continued.
The history of the Valmy family is rather sordid and tragic. Three brothers, Etienne, Leon, and Hippolyte, were the heirs to the Valmy estate. Etienne married and produced a son, Phillipe. However, Etienne and his wife were killed in an accident, leaving the young boy an orphan. Hippolyte was appointed caretaker of the child, but his work often took him away from France for months at a time. On one such occasion, Phillipe is left in the care of his uncle Leon and aunt Heloise. It is Leon and Heloise who hire Linda to care for the boy. Leon is bound to a wheelchair as the result of an automobile accident several years earlier. His first wife has died and he has a son, Raoul, from that marriage, but none from his union with Heloise. Shortly after arriving at the Valmy estate, accidents begin to happen. A shooting. A collapsing balcony. Linda is suspicious and cautious, guarding her charge fiercely. Even if it means coming to doubt the man who she has fallen in love with – Raoul de Valmy.
The story is well-paced and full of action and suspense, as well as romance. (Though I will say that the descriptions of field, forest, and mountain paths get somewhat wearing and led me to skim-read the pages from time to time.) This was my first exposure to Mary Stewart and it was a good one. It was rather reminiscent of Jane Eyre – a fact that would only recommend and endear it to me further! A “cozy mystery” out of its time and well worth rediscovery in this day.