For more than five hundred years weary travelers have been coming to the Stranger House—an out-of-the-way inn in the tiny village of Illthwaite in Cumbria, England. Now two very different visitors have arrived here onthe same dank and dreary autumn afternoon, each one driven by curiosity . . . and perilous purpose.
Australian math wizard Samantha "Sam" Flood is here searching for answers to a disturbing family mystery. Miguel Madero, former novice priest-turned-historical scholar, is exploring the links between an ancestor's bizarre disappearance and the people of Illthwaite. But Sam and Mig are not welcome in this town of secrets and silences. And when their personal quests become strangely intertwined, two determined seekers will find themselves drawn ever deeper into a fetid morass of deceit, mystery, and violence as they race to uncover the shocking truth about who they really are.
Fans of the witty Dalziel/Pascoe police procedurals (Good Morning, Midnight, etc.) by Diamond Dagger winner Hill may be nonplussed by this stand-alone, a mix of historical mystery, gothic romance, ghost story and tutorial on religion and Norse mythology. Samantha "Sam" Flood, an Australian mathematics whiz, visits the isolated British village of Illthwaite before attending graduate school at Cambridge, hoping to discover the origins of her grandmother who emigrated from the place as a child. Miguel "Mig" Madero, a former novice priest now a history scholar, seeks the link between an ancestor who disappeared during the Spanish Armada defeat and a Catholic Illthwaite family. The villagers, quirky and devious, seem to know more than they'll reveal. Sam and Mig, initially antagonistic, join forces when their quests intersect. Spanning four centuries and related by several narrators, who slowly clarify the mystery, the book is too long and repetitive and seasoned with wild coincidences. Still, the engrossing historical background, especially Elizabeth I's campaign to eliminate English Catholicism, more than compensates.