• Lauren

Mystery Review: The Moon-Spinners, Mary Stewart (1963)

Let's start with the positive: Mary Stewart writes beautifully. Her descriptions of Crete made me want to immediately book a flight and spend a few weeks rambling around the Greek countryside on my own romantic adventure.

Stewart is up to her usual (and I say this with great fondness) story here: a young, pretty woman - in this case, Nicola Ferris, a secretary at the British Embassy in Greece - who goes on for a week's holiday in Crete and then quickly gets caught up in a potentially deadly adventure with a handsome young man.

In The Moon-Spinners, Nicola, arriving a day early on her holiday, wanders into the hills near her hotel, and discovers two young men, one of whom - Mark Langley - has been shot. While she helps Mark nurse his wound for a night (not a euphemism), he sends her away soon after, telling her to stay out his business and away from trouble. His younger brother has been kidnapped during the scuffle where he got shot, and it's up to Mark - the man! - to find him

Of course, Nicola doesn't choose to stay out of trouble, and, joined by her older cousin Frances as a partner in detection, she investigates who has shot Mark and where Colin might be - dead or alive.

There were things I liked about this book: the aforementioned descriptions of Greece, particularly the magical village of Agios Georgios and surrounding areas where the action takes place and Nicola's cousin Frances - sharp and clever, who should really merit a book of her own, eve

But ... I got annoyed with the repeated emphasis on the idea that "women can't do anything and must stay out of danger." Sure, Stewart is partly poking fun at this trope - Nicola is quite a capable participant in the book's adventures - but very much only partly. There isn't much mystery, or much suspense. Nicola seems to stumble upon everything she needs to discover, mostly by luck. There never really feels like there's much tension or likelihood that things might actually go wrong. I found myself speed reading to get to the end of the book, so the completionist in me could add one more title to the list of Stewart books I'd finished.

I really wish I'd enjoyed this one more, since I love Stewart as an author (her books, found in the Marylebone Library when I lived in London, got me through one bad break-up several years ago, when I read one after the other after the other). Because they're such a wonderful escape and usually a rollicking adventure, I'm usually able to forgive slightly weak plotting. The Moon-Spinners though, is, in my mind, simply one of her weakest novels. Even the best of us have to take a mulligan, and now I've made it through once, I'd go back to enjoy her use of language.

2 Sherlocks. But if you haven't been introduced to Stewart yet (and if not, trust me, you are missing out, then start with another of her books instead. If I could be so bold, let me recommend my favorites instead: The Ivy Tree, Wildfire at Midnight, and Thornyhold.

Pairs well with fromage (goat or sheep) and cafe francais prepared by a possibly villainous British expat named Tony.

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