Sarah Jane Fearing, the sole offspring of a father who desperately wants a male heir, has grown up in the imposing rural mansion of one of England's most influential banking families.
At the centre of Sarah's world stands her charming, generous uncle Frank, the only relative who seems to have escaped the straitjacket of ponderous respectability that so effectively stifles the Fearing family.
Frank's rebellions afford Sarah delight and hope, until his extravagant lifestyle leads him deeper into debt and manoeuvres him into a disastrous marriage. Frank's wedding to a coldly ambitious woman produces the family's longed-for male scion, but the parents fall to quarrels, and then to murder. And Sarah is drawn inexorably into a morass that threatens the survival of the entire family. From the Belle Epoque at the end of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth, A Mansion and its Murder holds its secrets to its last suspenseful moment, and proves again the author's mettle as a mastermind of the traditional mystery.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 256 pages
- Publisher: Allison & Busby
- Publication Date: 07/02/2011
- Category: Crime & mystery
- ISBN: 9780749009717
Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.
Review by BookGirlVL
Sarah Fearing’s life has been burdened by her family’s appalling mansion, their magnificence and their guilt. Spanning the 1890s to 1950s, “A Mansion and its Murder” is narrated by Sarah Jane Fearing as she looks back on her youth spent in the imposing family mansion, owned by the rich and influential Fearing bankers. Robert Barnard beautifully intermingles voice of the woman Sarah becomes, and the knowledge she has gained throughout the years, with the point of view of an eleven-year-old girl, observing her family with the critical eye of an outsider. Often alone during her childhood, Sarah develops a close connection to her charming and hedonistic Uncle Frank. While pursuing an extravagant lifestyle, involving expeditions to exotic locales such as Outer Mongolia, Uncle Frank is left hopelessly in debt. In a coldly financial agreement intended to produce a male heir, Frank marries an enterprising and calculating woman, chosen specifically as a twisted act of revenge on his family. The union leads to endless quarrels and finally to murder. The crime is concealed and it is left to Sarah to unearth the buried past, discover the events of that fateful night, and reveal the scandalous secrets that have threatened the survival of a family intensely concerned with the appearance of stateliness and splendour.As the title suggests, the mansion is a protagonist in its own right. The characters are psychologically complex, but it is the narrative voice of Sarah Fearing that makes this a refreshing and enjoyable novel. The reader is left with an impression of a spunky and opinionated heroine, who possesses a questioning mind and learns to become ambitious, despite the professional limitations placed upon women at the time. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone waiting for the next season of Downton Abbey. With its emphasis on upstairs, downstairs relations in a British manor house and the effects on social conventions that took place between the nineteenth century and World Wars, this novel is sure to appeal.
Review by twitham
Robert Barnard has created an intriguing central figure in this 'big country house' mystery. The life of the narrator spans the end of the 19th Century and two wars. As the first female heir both to the house and the City bank, Sarah Jane Fearing is determined to step away from the privileged life of the past.