Old letters and a lost comb, a crumbling old home and family secrets; it seems The Emerald Comb is a typical recipe for a modern day English mystery. Just as anyone fond of English mysteries, I was drawn like a moth to a flame.
Katie, obsessed with her lineage, spends a lot of time tracing her ancestors, the St. Clairs much to her husband's disdain. When she steps into Kingsley House, the old residence of the St. Clairs, buried secrets of the family starts to unfold and it all becomes even more muddled for Katie. Who was the owner of the emerald comb? Which part of the family history does it come in?
There is something old fashioned at the way this book is written that I couldn’t picture out much of the modern world in it. This quality, spreading throughout the book, creates a nostalgic atmosphere and complements when the story takes us back to the past. It is perhaps because of this that Bartholomew’s story looms larger in presence and eclipses Katie’s story just a bit.
Chapters move back and forth from the 19th to 21st century and this is where things get a bit tricky for me. This kind of style is most often used but there comes a point when, during the cuts, interest would slightly waver and I have half a mind to make a jump for it. I am not exactly sure if this is necessarily a good or a bad merit. It did not also help that Katie seemed to be the only interesting character in the 21st century, apart from the elderly couple who lived at Kingsley House. I thought Simon’s disapproving reactions in the beginning borders on unlikable and in spite what happened further on, it did not really wipe away earlier impressions. That or my sympathy has run its course while reading about the old St. Clairs. In any case, the past was more gripping than the present here (partly because the meat of the story is there).
I loved a lot of English mysteries but I have to say The English Comb couldn’t quite get me there, like a very nice dish missing an ingredient. Perhaps I needed more from that emerald comb. It is as if it stayed true to its intent that some secrets are very much best left buried but Kathleen McGurl makes it worth a try for us to dig in anyway. Hauntingly dramatic with its elegant writing, it was a good read with just the right edge to it.
Some secrets are best left buried...
Researching her family tree had been little more than a hobby – until Katie stepped onto Kingsley House’s sprawling, ivy-strewn drive. The house may be crumbling today, but it was once the intimidatingly opulent residence of the St Clairs, Katie’s ancestors. Arriving here two hundred years later, emotion stirs in Katie: a strange nostalgia for a place she’s never seen before... and when Kingsley House comes up for sale, Katie is determined that her family must buy it.
Surrounded by the mysteries of the past, Katie’s pastime becomes a darker obsession, as she searches through history to trace her heritage. But she soon discovers that these walls house terrible secrets. And when forgotten stories and hidden betrayals come to light, the past seems more alive than Katie could ever have imagined.
Title: The Emerald Comb
Author: Kathleen McGurl
Published: September 2014
Publisher: Carina UK
Rating: ♨♨♨ ( 3 cups - I have to say I skipped a few parts but the suspense and thrill kept me at hand.)