Sidney Sheldon’s The Tides of Memory by Tilly Bagshawe is a classic Sheldon-style thriller (available April 9, 2013).
Powerful women, dastardly villains, intrigue, glamour, revenge, violence—those are the hallmarks of a Sidney Sheldon novel. As a teenager, I raided my nana’s library to indulge in his juicy, racy sagas, like Windmills of the Gods and If Tomorrow Comes. A TV-producing mastermind (he created and wrote nearly all episodes of The Patty Duke Show and I Dream of Jeannie) and one of the best-selling authors of the 1980s, Sheldon, who passed away in 2007, continues his legacy with new novels by Tilly Bagshawe (a best seller in her own right). For those who read and enjoyed the author’s work in his heyday, there’s a decidedly nostalgic appeal to be found in the brand’s newest release, The Tides of Memory.
The tale of Alexia De Vere, Britain’s newly appointed Home Secretary (second-in-command to the UK Prime Minister), spans years of larger-than-life drama and tragedy. Born Toni Gilletti, a middle class, American teenage beauty who was partly responsible for a terrible tragedy at a summer camp in the 1970s, our protagonist reinvents herself abroad, transforming eventually into the Iron Lady, a fierce figure who battled her way to the top of the House of Commons.
For all her political prestige, however, personal troubles plague Alexia. Her daughter Roxie is confined to a wheelchair after a suicide attempt that was the result of Alexia driving her tennis pro lover back to Australia. Her devoted husband Teddy’s dog is poisoned. And a strange man seems to be stalking her… a man who is connected to her secret past and could bring down the entire facade of her new life.
At roughly 400 pages, this tome is packed with crazy drama and many dead bodies. In the back half of the book, Alexia becomes a bit of an amateur sleuth, as does another character investigating a motorcycle accident. The culprits behind all those corpses aren’t readily predicted, and there are a fair number of red herrings thrown into the mix as more than a dozen characters each get their own POV sections and everyone has an agenda to pursue and secrets to hide.
Bagshawe does a good job balancing the over-the-top bits with more grounded moments, so the book works as more than just a pale facsimile of Sheldon’s older works. Still, true to Sheldon’s style, there’s an air of grandeur (the heroine is frequently and repeatedly referred to by her full name as if someone was announcing her entrance to a country club ballroom) and plenty of brand-name-dropping in the descriptive prose (we hear quite a bit about one character’s Hudson corduroy jeans and Gap t-shirt). Unfortunately, there is also a very dated-feeling and gratuitous subplot featuring a sadistic gay villain that felt cliched and offensive, as well as a weird thread of religious fervor that was never fully explained for one of the evildoers.
The camp level may be slightly less elevated than it was in the ’80s novels but there’s still a fair amount of edge and snark to be had. Even the bit players get some fantastically snappy exchanges:
“What is it about Hamlin that women like so much?” Charles demanded angrily.
Cassandra smiled sweetly. “Do you want the answer in inches or feet?”
“He’s a fucking carpenter, for God’s sake!” spluttered Charles.
“So was Jesus, darling. Don’t be bitter. Anyway, it’s his father who’s the carpenter. Billy just sticks to fucking. And boy, does he know what he’s doing.”
It’s a little early for beach season, but The Tides of Memory would be a great page turner with which to idle away a sultry summer afternoon by the ocean.
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Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and Internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.