Cousin captivates, then leaves you cold

My Cousin Rachel is a murder mystery. The mystery is whether there was a murder at all—or whether there might have been two.

Philip Ashley tells the story. His bachelor cousin Ambrose, who brought him up as his heir, goes off to Italy for his health. While there, Ambrose meets and marries a half-Italian distant cousin, Rachel. Ambrose’s health deteriorates and he dies abroad, but not before sending Philip letters full of dark hints that Rachel was trying to poison him.

Osborne House
Osborne House

Philip is fully prepared to hate Rachel, but when she arrives in England on his doorstep, he is as smitten as Ambrose. Before long, he has turned over to her the family estate, the family jewels and his own virginity.

The tale is dark and sinister in the tried-and-true English manner, all polished mahogany and deviled kidneys for breakfast. Rachel in her mourning dress is appropriately bewitching and mysterious, as befits a leading lady of foreign birth. But Philip is simply a twit, a condition caused, perhaps, by growing up entirely without hormones.

Daphne Du Maurier writes well enough that you will keep turning pages, but when you’re finished you’ll wonder why you bothered.

My Cousin Rachel
Daphne Du Maurier
Doubleday, 1952
288 pages
1952 Bestseller #4
My grade: C

Photo credit: Osborne House, uploaded by dubock

© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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