Saturday, April 24, 2010

Game Set and Danger -- Anna Clarke -- 1981

Game Set and Danger

Anna Clarke

My Rating: 4 Stars
Ages 17+ (most of it would be fine for 14 & 15 year olds but there are some references to torture/experimental methods of the Nazi doctors during the Holocaust... and a couple other elements (that perhaps only an older reader would understand) that I didn't appreciate.

There's nothing I love more than a good mystery... and there is nothing like the frustration I feel when a mystery is poorly executed. I had never read this author before, so began this book with some trepidation. Was it going to be well written? Were there going to be twists? Was the story going to hold my attention until the end? The answer was yes. My attention was properly held and impressed, I was surprised three or four times at the twists Anna Clarke threw in and when I finished, I thought, “I should read it again.” :-)

When Helen was a young woman, she was a great tennis player. Her partner was her best friend and they played many games together, each striving for the best performance they could muster. They were very close, so close that it was almost unhealthy. Neither wanted to get married for fear of hurting the other... and it took a summer's absence from each other for their lives to continue on. While abroad, Marianne met a German artist who won her heart while Helen decided to marry her childhood sweetheart, a serious young man studying to enter the church of England.

As close as the two girls were in their youth, married life left them no time to continue their friendship, except by infrequent correspondence and even rarer visits. Helen thinks that perhaps it's best since her husband Arthur doesn't care for Marianne at all. He's an even tempered man in all other respects so she takes the interrupted friendship with typical patience for those in her life.

Life goes peacefully on for twenty or so years. Glenna is born to Arthur and Helen; Marianne's artist husband is becoming famous and has made a tidy profit from his paintings; Arthur is now the vicar of Collinghurst in Sussex. Both couples are established in their communities, having their own circles of friends and acquaintances, living their own lives as they like. Helen thinks life will continue on just that way for another twenty years or so.

But her peaceful existence is interrupted suddenly by a letter from a distraught Marianne. Her husband had fallen down a cliff and had been killed. She had found him at the base of it... horrible. Couldn't Helen come stay with her? She needed her friend immediately. Of course Helen will go. Arthur makes a fuss but Marianne needs her. And even with the years lapsing as they had, when you have a friend like Marianne, you have a duty when she calls for help.

When Helen arrives in Germany, the first thing she notices is that Marianne is a bundle of nerves. But what startled and nearly frightened her was the fact that Marianne locked Helen's bedroom door (from the outside) the first night. By the time the next four days have passed by, Helen is no longer sure that Karl fell down the cliff. And she's also not sure if Marianne is as guilty as she's acting. And then there's the strangely sinister village doctor who seems to be Marianne's dark shadow. He wants something from Marianne but she isn't sure what.

The ending is as thrilling as it is surprising.

What I Liked:
1: The patterns of dark and light in this story. I didn't appreciate when it ended on dark, however.
2: How well written it is.
3: A nice variety of characters.
4: The twists in this story. I wasn't expecting any of them. :-)
5: How she added a WW2 aspect. In fact, the story hinges on it, though one isn't sure how until the end.
6: It was a mystery. I love a good mystery.
7: Marianne's guilt was well written and seemed realistic.

What I Didn't Like:
1: Arthur being a skunk. Blah. :-P
2: I wish there weren't any women who are sheep. It seems outrageous when someone takes advantage of them. ::sigh::
3: How it ended on a black note.
4: The scenario of husband loving his wife's best friend even though the relationship would be impossible, etc. I suppose it happens sometimes in reality but that doesn't stop me from disliking it.

No comments: