I loved A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys, and I was excited by the blurb of the second novel released under the pseudonym of this well-known author.
London 1948: Eve Forrester is trapped in a loveless marriage, in a gloomy house, in a grey suburb.
Out of the blue, she receives a solicitor’s letter. A wealthy stranger has left her a mystery inheritance but in order to find out more, she must travel to the glittering French Riviera.
Eve discovers her legacy is an enchanting villa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and suddenly, life could not be more glamorous.
Alone in paradise, Eve must unlock the story behind her surprise bequest – before events turn deadly…
Reminiscent of a Golden Age mystery, Fatal Inheritance is an intoxicating story of dysfunctional families and long-hidden secrets, set against the razzle-dazzle and decadence of the French Riviera.
The novel opens in London where the reader meets Eve Forrester. Married and with little to occupy her time, it’s clear that she is bored with her lot in life, trapped as she is in a dull suburb and a loveless marriage. Despite her efforts, her husband seems to have little interest in her, particularly as to whether or not she is happy. With the unexpected arrival of a solicitor’s letter, Eve immediately begins to imagine a better life, even though her husband immediately tries to extinguish that little spark of excitement. Forced by the conditions of the will of this mysterious stranger, she embarks upon a journey to the French Riviera, away from her husband for a little while at least.
While under strict instructions to return home immediately, Eve decides to stay in order to discover more about Guy Lester and why this man that she has never met and that she has no knowledge of would leave her a stake in his property, incurring the anger of his wife and children, who also have no idea who she is nor why she has been given anything. I loved Eve’s determination to stay on the Mediterranean coast once she arrived, and even though she feels guilty at ignoring her husband’s orders, it’s clear that the fact that they are orders irritates her, and she is determined to experience this new-found freedom as much as to get to the bottom of her mysterious benefactor.
It proves to be an intriguing mystery, made more so by no one knowing what drove Guy Lester to leave Eve anything. It’s clear that she has no knowledge of him, so how did he know her? It’s a mystery that will slowly unravel over the course of the novel, taking the reader in different directions and toying with their assumptions as more information comes to light. Guy’s family – particularly his young wife – are frustrated at the situation, seeing her as an impostor seeking a claim to a portion of his wealth that she has no right to in their eyes. Despite Eve’s obvious ignorance of the situation, they assume the worst, and seem against her from the beginning. It’s a difficult situation, but Eve finds allies as well as enemies, and begins to enjoy herself, despite a few uncomfortable situations.
The novel is set in the late 1940s, and I loved the juxtaposition of the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera against the aftermath of the Second World War, the aftereffects of which are still being felt through rationing and the “make do and mend” mentality. The lavish and extravagant lifestyles that Eve encounters are so far from her own experience that she can’t help but be swept up by it all. But underneath the glamorous facades are many secrets that some people would do anything to keep quiet, and Eve will insist on asking questions and digging up the past…
Fatal Inheritance is another fantastic novel from Rachel Rhys, and one that has many elements in common with Golden Age mysteries. Beautifully written, this is a wonderful story to get lost in as you try to work out the mystery of Eve’s strange benefactor.