- Book: Fatal Inheritance
- Location: Antibes, French Riviera (Cote d'Azur)
- Author: Rachel Rhys
This is a sumptuously evocative book of time and place, Antibes and the Riviera in 1948 come to colourful life. The war has come to an end but the reverberations still permeate society and individual lives.
Eve Forrester, back in suburban Sutton, is married to dullard Clifford, who keeps a tight reign on anything that seems even mildly exciting. One day she receives a letter telling her that she has been left an inheritance by Guy Lester, who is a total unknown to her. Such excitement, tempered by caution on Clifford’s part, is something rare in Eve’s suburban life and she resolves to head by train (on Le Train Bleu) to Antibes to verify the legacy – after all everything is paid for.
It transpires she has been left a quarter share of Villa La Perle in Cap d’Antibes “in atonement for past wrongs“. And from here the mystery starts to unfold. The other 3 in the inheritance equation are all Guy Lester’s children, so where does that leave her? Surely she is no relation? But as she soon discovers, the Lesters are a monied and tricky bunch of people and her one confidante is the writer Sully, who is temporarily residing at Villa La Perle. One Hollywood star even takes her under her wing and nefarious actions during the war, just finished, also become part of the overall picture.
Hanging over the whole story is, of course, the mystery at the heart of the story: Why did Guy Lester leave Eve a share of the villa to Eve?
I love the cover, I love Rachel Rhys’s writing, she has a fluid and supremely competent hand (after all, she is in fact the very popular author Tammy Cohen). Class, privilege and wealth thread their way through the story and dowdy Eve from Sutton, Surrey inevitably has all kinds of awakenings on the Riviera as she navigates the complex and destructive dynamics of the family and of new acquaintances. And this, I think – only slightly – gets in the way of a fluid story, which keeps coming back to individuals, a way of stretching the story out until the final denouement without adding any more substance to the plot. The characters pass through the pages, but I struggled to really connect with them and Eve finds herself in some absurd situations which add a little extra drama. It is a lovely atmospheric read nevertheless, the storytelling and construction have a whiff of an Agatha Christie novel. It will undoubtedly be a big hit Summer 2018.
The Sunday Times describes the novel as “…a transporting Golden Age-infused mystery caper, pungently suggesting a South of France still blowsy in its beauty and heady scents, but with its reputation bruised by dubious wartime conduct” What’s not to like?