Victoria Holt’s The Secret Woman is an old-fashioned mystery story arising from the Victorian aristocrats’ need for a male heir carry on the line.
The leading lady is Anna Brett, a orphan in the care of an eccentric maiden aunt who buys but rarely sells antique furniture in an English seaport dominated by the Crediton shipping firm.
When her aunt dies under mysterious circumstances, leaving an-all-but bankrupt business, Anna gets a job as governess Castle Crediton. She owes her job to Chantel Loman who had come to nurse Aunt Charlotte and became Anna’s confidant.
It’s Chantel who sees Anna has fallen hard for the Crediton’s bastard son, Captain Redvers Stretton, about whom dark things are hinted.
Chantel, who had become nurse to Captain Stretton’s disturbed wife, seems more interested in Rex Crediton, the acknowledged son and heir to the family’s fortune.
Lady Crediton plans for Rex to marry the daughter of a competing firm, effectively merging the two.
The Secret Woman contains only nice, appropriately Victorian upper-class murders: no blood in sight, no police on the premises.
Holt keeps the story moving so readers don’t think too hard about the multiple implausibilities in the story until after they’ve finished the tale.
The Secret Woman by Victoria Holt
Doubleday, ©1970, Book Club Edition, 374 p.
1970 bestseller #8. My grade: B
©2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni