Title: The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary/Historical, Mystery
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Kate Morton meets Daphne du Maurier in this atmospheric debut novel about a woman who discovers the century-old remains of a murder victim on her family’s Scottish estate, plunging her into an investigation of its mysterious former occupants.
Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves London and her strained relationship behind for Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She intends to renovate the ruinous house into a hotel, but the shocking discovery of human remains brings her ambitious restoration plans to an abrupt halt before they even begin. Few physical clues are left to identify the body, but one thing is certain: this person did not die a natural death.
Hungry for answers, Hetty discovers that Muirlan was once the refuge of her distant relative Theo Blake, the acclaimed painter and naturalist who brought his new bride, Beatrice, there in 1910. Yet ancient gossip and a handful of leads reveal that their marriage was far from perfect; Beatrice eventually vanished from the island, never to return, and Theo withdrew from society, his paintings becoming increasingly dark and disturbing.
What happened between them has remained a mystery, but as Hetty listens to the locals and studies the masterful paintings produced by Theo during his short-lived marriage, she uncovers secrets that still reverberate through the small island community—and will lead her to the identity of the long-hidden body.
The House Between Tides is a riveting mystery with a dual timeline.Events in the present are directly linked to those in the past and Sarah Maine seamlessly weaves the two story arcs into a very intriguing novel that is quite gripping.
In the present, Hetty Deveraux is finally ready to make a decision about what to do with the ancestral home she inherited from her grandmother. Her boyfriend, Giles, is pushing her to renovate the dilapidated mansion and open a posh hotel, and while the idea has merit, she is still mulling over her options. Upon her arrival, she is stunned to discover the home is literally falling down and possibly beyond repair. Even more shocking, human bones have recently been discovered and it is quickly determined that foul play is the cause of death. Hetty’s curiosity is immediately piqued and she begins looking into her family’s history in order identify the remains and hopefully unmask the killer.
Hetty has endured several losses in a short span and she has been content to hand over the reins to Giles as she tries to come to terms with her grief. Unbeknownst to Hetty, he has set things in motion to move forward with turning her ancestral home into a lavish hotel. Dismayed by this discovery, she is enchanted by the desolate yet beautiful island and she is enthralled by the family mansion.Hoping the reports that it would literally cost millions to renovate the house are wrong, Hetty is becoming more and more certain she wants to preserve her inheritance instead of turning it into a hotel. Unfortunately, she cannot seem to stand up to Giles and the overly pushy developers whom he hired for the project. While Hetty is a likable and sympathetic protagonist, she is frustratingly passive and unable to stand up for herself for almost the entire novel.
In 1910, Hetty’s distant relative and renowned artist Theo Blake relocates to his home on Muirlan Island along with his bride Beatrice. With very few modern comforts, Beatrice is soon entranced with the stark beauty of the island but she is soon dismayed her husband’s increasingly fractious relationship with Cameron Forbes, the son of his factor. Beatrice is also frustrated as Theo begins to spend more and more time holed up in his study and less and less time with her. With his mood darkening with each passing day, their fragile marriage begins to crumble and Theo eventually turns into a recluse with the reputation of being a little mad.
Of the two story arcs, Beatrice and Theo’s is the most compelling. Beatrice’s marriage to the twenty years older artist is typical of the time period, but she is definitely not a shrinking violet who passively lets life happen around her. She comes into her own after their arrival on Muirlan Island and while at first she defers to Theo, she quickly begins to form her own opinions about her husband’s treatment of the locals and his unpalatable hobby of killing rare birds for his collection. Beatrice is quite observant as she witnesses Theo’s puzzling reaction to Cameron and she draws her own conclusion about the reasons for the growing discord between them. Her attempts to keep the peace are soon marred by her growing dissatisfaction with her marriage, Theo’s stubborn refusal to take better care of his tenants and the increasingly volatile arguments between Theo and Cameron.
The House Between Tides is a wonderfully atmospheric novel that is fast-paced and impossible to put down. The characters are richly drawn with realistic strengths and weaknesses. The mystery surrounding the newly discovered bones is fascinating and as the story progresses, the victim list is essentially narrowed down to two people. Sarah Maine does a wonderful job keeping readers guessing right up until the big reveal who was murdered and why. Although the final resolution of the various story arcs is a little convoluted, readers will be satisfied with the novel’s conclusion. All in all, an absolutely wonderful debut that fans of the genre are sure to enjoy.