When Frances concocts an elaborate plan to escape today's world of surveillance, her hopes are soon crushed by long-buried secrets, entwining her life with others forever. Having fled to a remote village in the south-west of France, she employs Julien, a mute builder, to renovate her house. Communicating by notes written on pages torn from a jotter, they form a strange, silent bond, but when a newcomer moves into the neighbouring property, followed by furtive men inspecting her land in the dead of each night, Frances' concerns for her privacy spiral. While fighting to defend her covert existence, fear soon turns towards murder, and Frances finds she uncovers a series of gruesome, historic events...
Spiders build intricate webs from fine translucent material designed to draw in their prey. Elizabeth Hamilton-Smyth has concocted the same stratagem to draw readers into 'Muted Veil' and, once you have entered the pages, you can’t get out. Not that you want to.
And speaking of webs, that’s just what Frances wants to avoid, not those spun by the arachnids, but the worldwide web, the six million closed-circuit cameras across the United Kingdom, that tightly-woven electronic imbroglio that reaches into our lives like a cloud of poison to realign our thoughts, words, and deeds. Frances escapes to the countryside in France here she communicates in an antediluvian script, that is hand-written notes rather than MSN, with the tanned mute constructor remodelling her maison de campagne.
Then a stranger appears. There are noises in the nightly. Footsteps. Frances came to la vallee de la Leze to find privacy and finds herself drawn into a dark mysterious and violent past from which she may never escape. The book enters a new phase and you are gripped - in the web.
But enough of the plot. There are secrets and secrets must be learned first hand. 'Muted Veil' is a wonderfully written mystery by a writer at the height of her powers and, to draw on that old cliché, I really couldn’t put it down.