Rated Reads

The Distant Hours

by Kate Morton

Rated: Mild

Edie Burchill is intrigued when her mother receives a letter lost in the mail for 50 years and her mother has an odd reaction that she won’t explain, at least not in a way that seems satisfactory to Edie. She does learn that her mother had been evacuated from London as a child during World War II and taken out to the country, where she ended up living with a young woman and her twin older sisters in their castle.

Edie probably would have let the mysterious reaction slide except for the fact that one day she runs across Milderhurst Castle when she gets lost in the country, and her fascination — almost obsession — with the castle, its inhabitants and her mother’s past begins. With some sleuthing, she begins to learn about the now aged spinster sisters, Percy, Saffy and Juniper Blythe, and their author father who wrote a famous scary story called The True History of the Mud Man. She learns about the tragedies that befell the family at the castle and even gets to meet the sisters on a tour of the home.

As Edie learns bit by bit about the history of the castle and its inhabitants, including her mother, the reader gets to learn about each character 50 years earlier; the narrative goes back and forth between the past and the present (well, technically, 1992). Information, personalities and motivations are revealed, and mysteries are slowly solved.

Kate Morton, author of The Forgotten Garden and The House at Riverton, has penned another lovely novel with engaging characters and gothic secrets that keeps the reader hanging on until the last page. For those who enjoyed her previous books and for any fans of gothic literature, this is a must-read.

Rated: Mild, for a few uses of mild language and some mild sexual references.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Distant Hours
  • by Kate Morton
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: