The books you'll want to read.
It’s the spring of 1921, and wealthy widower Bennett Chapman has summoned attorneys Adrian de la Noye and Jim Reid to Newport. Bennett wants to revise his will and leave the bulk of his estate to his (much younger) bride-to-be, Catharine Walsh. Bennett’s grown children are less than pleased with this plan, though, and are determined to prove that their father is mentally incompetent and therefore unfit to make such a decision. Adrian and Jim assume this allegation is just sour grapes, but then they learn Bennett believes he’s been communicating with his dead wife Elizabeth via Catharine’s clairvoyant niece Amy, and that both the marriage and the will amendment were Elizabeth’s idea. Has Bennett gone batty? Is Amy for real? If so, why is Elizabeth so eager to marry off her husband and disinherit her kids? And what’s the story with Catharine? Adrian and Jim are determined to uncover the truth, whatever the cost.
I’d be hard-pressed to tell you in what section of the bookstore you’re most likely to find Jill Morrow’s Newport. Is it a ghost story? Sure. But it’s also a mystery, a love story, a revenge tale, and a work of historical fiction that offers incisive commentary on class and gender. Regardless of how you choose to categorize it, though, it’s a thoroughly engrossing read and you should run out and buy yourself a copy posthaste.
The book mostly takes place in 1921, but there are frequent flashbacks to 1898. (Some of the characters have met before, you see. *eyebrow waggle*) The story is told in the third-person using a rotating slate of narrative viewpoints, allowing Morrow to maximize drama and build tension. Morrow’s prose is evocative of time and place and rife with artful turns of phrase that add color and texture without detracting from the plot.
Newport’s characters are skillfully rendered and the relationships they share are nuanced, complex, and refreshingly realistic. Swoony romantic moments abound, but to a one they feel honest and earned. While no murder takes place, there are a number of puzzles that need solving, each of them compelling. The denouement—though somewhat predictable—both thrills and satisfies. And the ending is simply marvelous; Morrow chooses character over action and melodrama, and Newport is better for it.