A Place in the Country by Elizabeth Adler is a psychological suspense novel set in the English countryside featuring a mother and daughter (available June 19, 2012).
Caroline Evans is a divorcee who has moved from beautiful, warm Singapore to the cold and rainy countryside of England with her 15-year-old daughter, Issy. Caroline doesn’t really have a whole lot going for her right now besides the ability to rock awesome red glasses and see the silver lining to any situation, and that’s part of the charm of the story. Somewhat less charming is the lack of depth to either the romance or the mystery elements of the narrative.
Because there is a mystery here. Caroline opens her own restaurant—called A Place in the Country—and is doing fairly well until her ex-husband dies and Issy refuses to believe the official determination that his death was a suicide.
I found this book a bit hard to categorize. Neither cozy nor romantic suspense, it is closest to women’s fiction with a dash of mystery. And yet, there are thriller elements, too, which always left me waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is surprisingly one of the strengths of the book. Oh, the husband cheated on our heroine? Well, let’s add in a Chinese mistress and the Chinese mob for some spice! Bet you didn’t expect that!
Despite my problems with some of the narrative’s pacing, I really enjoyed the way Adler infused the tone and charm of the English countryside into the book and how she built very interesting characters—I particularly like Jim, the love interest, and Georgki, a construction worker with dubious origins. Luckily our time with Caroline is almost always well spent. Caroline’s ex-husband, James, is a reliable villain throughout the novel (even after his unfortunate demise) and is one trope I can get behind in A Place in the Country. I mean, who wouldn’t love to see the deadbeat dad get his comeuppance? (Of course, as these things go that just creates more problems for our heroine.)
“I was a man who thought he could have it all. And now I’ve found out no one can.”
His touch sent tremors through her. She pulled away, took a sip of the wine, then a gulp. She topped up his glass, telling herself he couldn’t just walk in here, into her home, waltz back into her life as though he had the right.
This man had dumped her, he had told her he didn’t care anymore; he’d blackmailed her over Issy’s custody. She remembered Gayle Lee saying that James “belonged” to her and always would and that she’d better not interfere . . .
“I’m in trouble.”
To enjoy this book, it’s best to appreciate the little things—like the legitimately good writing, and the realistic plot—and ignore the bad things—like the “and then . . .” plot and obvious outcomes.
Jennifer Proffitt is a Midwest transplant to New York City. She spends most of her time reading and writing about romance and watching crime shows, but you can follow her other adventures on Twitter @JennProffitt.