Fatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys

The pink house on the Riviera…

😀 😀 😀 🙂

It’s 1948, and Eve Forrester is living a dull, restricted life in London with her staid, passionless husband. Out of the blue, she receives a letter telling her that a man she has never heard of has left her a legacy. To find out more, she’ll have to travel to the French Riviera. Once there, she discovers she’s been left a share in a lovely pink house overlooking the sea. The dead man’s family don’t know why he named her in his will either, and resent her very much. Pushed to agree to an early sale and division of the proceeds, Eve finds herself unwilling to comply until she can find out what’s behind it all…

Naturally, when writing a slow-burn book set in the fairly distant past, Rhys has used the present tense. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? No, nor would I. So, despite the fact that she does it as well as most, Rhys was always going to have to work extra hard to win me over.

To a certain extent she did, though it took a long time to really grab my interest. The first section in Cap d’Antibes is full of lengthy description that goes well beyond scene-setting. The house in particular is described in minute detail, putting me in mind of the kind of brochure that is produced for a house sale. But I was intrigued to discover the reason for the legacy and that kept me reading. I formed a theory fairly early on which proved to be completely wrong, so that’s always a major plus!

This is one of those books that works best if you switch off your credibility filters going in. If it weren’t for fear of spoilers, I could make a list of plot holes and inconsistencies, and little side mysteries that are left entirely unresolved and are completely illogical once the final revelations are disclosed. They add to the suspense during the read but are left hanging at the end. The story too requires quite a lot of suspension of disbelief. Within a week, this ordinary unremarkable woman is consorting with Princes and Hollywood stars, invited to their parties and weddings, and looked on as an intimate friend.

However, if you can buy into it, then it’s all quite fun. The rather faded glamour of post-war life in this playground of the rich and pointless is portrayed very well, with an underlying feeling of the desperation of people trying to party away the recent horrors of war. Rhys also shows the scars left after the Nazi occupation of France, with the lingering divisions between those who collaborated and those who resisted. And, in a time when the social order has been broken and reformed, she shows how it can be hard to know whether people are who they present themselves as, or if they have remade themselves to hide their unacceptable pasts. There’s a romance element which is quite enjoyable too, if a little clichéd, and there’s more action in the second half which speeds the thing along at a better pace than the slow first half.

Rachel Rhys

I’ve struggled to rate this one. I don’t think it’s up to the standard of her earlier novel, A Dangerous Crossing, and I suspect that may be, as so often, down to rushing it out without the kind of firm edit that was really required to tighten up the various plotting weaknesses and unnecessary padding. (No, I’m not blaming the editor – authors have the ultimate responsibility for their own books.) The present tense feels entirely wrong for the story and was a running, if minor, irritation to me throughout. However, once it speeded up a bit, I found myself turning pages quite happily and was certainly interested in discovering how it would all play out. But afterwards, I found myself asking – “but what about…?” And “why didn’t she…?” And “who…?” And that’s never satisfactory. So three and a half stars and a recommendation as an overall enjoyable read but not one to be taken too seriously.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Transworld.

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37 thoughts on “Fatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys

  1. I keep hearing about this one, FictionFan. The settings intrigue me, and I am interested in finding out the reason for the inheritance. On the other hand, my disbelief and I are good friends. Hmmmm….. If I read it, I’ll wait until I’m in the mood for something that doesn’t necessarily have to be completely believable. It does sound fun…

    • I’m afraid I found myself getting very picky – once I notice one discrepancy my mind starts looking for other ones even if I don’t want it to! But it was enjoyable overall, so I definitely wouldn’t want to put you off. 😀

  2. I really love that cover. Very vintage. And sometimes I just like to read a fun story, even if it’s not entirely believable. Other times – well, then you’ll find me talking back to the characters or the author. Depends on the day and my mood.

    • Yes, my mood affects how I see a book too, and I’m afraid once I notice one thing that doesn’t quite makes sense my mind then seems to start getting very picky. But it is enjoyable overall so I wouldn’t want to put you off it – that’s why I had difficulty deciding how to rate it…

  3. I empathize with your dilemma, FF. I don’t much like present tense either, and I strongly believe all the loose ends should be tied up neatly. That said, as a writer, yes, we’re ultimately responsible for editing our own works, but four eyes are better than two when it comes to catching errors. I just finished a good book put out by one of the big publishing houses and was dismayed to find all sorts of glaring errors. Somebody slipped up, for sure. I think authors tend to get tunnel vision when it comes to their novels and perhaps rely too heavily on the editing process (which sadly, can fall short). No easy answers there, I’m afraid.

    • I certainly think editors should do a better job and especially as you say when it’s one of the big publishing houses that’s doing the job. But I think it’s the rush that causes the problems – we all know that if we leave something we’ve written aside for a few weeks and then read over it again we’re far more likely to notice any errors we’ve made. And as for present tense, I’m so bored with it now – it’s such an unnatural way of telling a story.

  4. I’ve just finished it and absolutely loved it. The present tense didn’t bother me at all but you mentioning plot holes and inconsistencies has me wondering if I got so absorbed that I missed a ton of stuff. Enlighten me 😄 (privately obviously, wouldn’t want to spoil it for other people)

    • The present tense always does my head in – I know some people don’t mind it, but since loads of people hate it, I can’t understand why authors insist on using it. A wonderful way to lose readers… grrr!!!! 😉

    • Haha – the problem with taking books from NetGalley is you don’t get a chance to peek inside, so I often end up with present tense or books where the first sentence has four swear words in it! Bah!! 😉

      She is good, both as Rachel Rhys and Tammy Cohen, though in each of her names I’ve loved one book and not loved another quite so much. A Dangerous Crossing is great, though! Hope you’re having a fun weekend! 😀

  5. Was the husband still dull and staid by the end of the book? Or was he left behind? (Don’t tell me the answers if this will spoil the book for anyone. I’m not going to read it, I just want to know whether to feel sorry for him or not).

  6. I’m not a fan of books written in the present tense either, but they are getting harder and harder to avoid. I can’t understand why it’s becoming so common – so many people dislike it, but I’ve never seen any complaints about books being written in the past tense! Anyway, that in itself doesn’t put me off reading Rachel Rhys. I’ll probably start with Dangerous Crossing rather than this one, though.

    • The whole present tense trend is driving me further and further away from contemporary writing. I don’t get it – as you say, I never see people complaining when a book is written in past tense. A Dangerous Crossing is very good – I can’t remember what tense it’s in, but I enjoyed it a lot…

  7. If the author wants me to suspend THAT much disbelief, the universe of the novel needs to be slightly different. It can’t be “for realsies” plus all this stuff that would never happen. I get too angry.

  8. Sadly, I think you’re right about the whole ‘second novel released too quickly vibe you’re getting, it’s always a disappointment when that happens, because I really enjoyed A Dangerous Crossing 😦

    • Certainly from a gorgeous location point of view, but I’m not convinced there’s enough story in there to make a decent length adaptation. But maybe I’m just being too grumpy… 😉

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