Daphne du Maurier’s The Scapegoat is a novel of suspense in the romantic tradition that the Dame’s mid-2oth century readers expected. There’s the requisite isolated setting, suspicious deaths, and a confusion of locals who know more than they are willing to tell.
The story begins when a depressed London professor of French history bumps into a Frenchman in Le Mans who could be his twin. The Frenchman slips his look-alike a sedative and takes off with the Londoner’s possessions, abandoning his own personal effects and his identity as Compte de Gue.
For reasons unknown even to himself, the professor takes up the role of the Count. As John takes responsibiity for the ne’er-do-well count’s family and business, he finds temporary relief from his own misery and isolation. Before long, however, the charade comes to and end, and the hero comes to himself.
Du Maurier is a clever writer, if not a brilliant one. Readers who can accept the implausible premise of the plot will find the novel keeps them interested to the end, despite its wooden characters and preposterous action.
All told, The Scapegoat is a good novel for a rainy night when there’s nothing good on TV.The Scapegoat By Daphne du Maurier Doubleday, 1957 348 pages #7 on the 1957 bestseller list My grade: C-