‘Wildfire at Midnight’ by Mary Stewart

When fashion model Gianetta Drury visits the Isle of Skye for a relaxing holiday, she does not expect to discover her ex-husband, Nicholas, staying at her hotel. Even less does she expect to find herself thrust into the middle of a murder investigation, but that is exactly what happens; she arrives to discover that a teenage girl is found dead on the side of the mountain, apparently killed as part of some kind of sacrificial ritual. The police know that the murderer is staying at Gianetta’s hotel. Everyone is a suspect…

I always think of Wildfire at Midnight as the most ‘traditional’ of Stewart’s suspense novels; it is the one which most closely adheres to the generic conventions of detective fiction. For one thing, the police are involved (a surprisingly rare feature in Stewart’s work) and the fact that novel takes place in an unimpregnable setting, with a clearly defined cast of suspects, reminds me of the sort of country-house murder investigations Hercule Piorot is always involving himself with. I love the setting of the Isle of Skye – its dramatic mountains and atrocious weather lend the novel a real atmosphere of danger, and the scene in which the murderer’s identity is finally revealed (don’t worry, no spoilers here!) is deliciously frightening.

Mary Stewart

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