For the Back to the Classics 2022 challenge, I decided to read Madam, Will You Talk for the Mystery/Detective/Crime category. Published in 1955.
I have long been a fan of Mary Stewart's novels, which are a delightful blend of suspense and romance, usually in exotic settings, and well-written to boot. My blogger buddy Constance, of Staircase Wit, has recommended this first of the Mary Stewart novels on more than one occasion, so I finally put it on a reading list...and, voila!
Here's the GoodReads blurb:
Widowed Charity Selborne had been greatly looking forward to her driving holiday through France with her old friend Louise - long, leisurely days under the hot sun, enjoying the beauty of the parched Provencal landscape. But when Charity arrived at their hotel in the picturesque French town of Avignon, she had no way of knowing that she was to become the principal player in the last act of a strange and brutal tragedy. Most of it had already been played. There had been love--and lust--and revenge and fear and murder.
Very soon her dreams turn into a nightmare, when by befriending a terrified boy and catching the attention of his enigmatic, possibly murderous father, Charity has inadvertently placed herself center stage. She becomes enmeshed in the schemes of a gang of murderers. And now the killer, with blood enough on his hands, is waiting in the wings.
I absolutely loved the setting, starting out in Avignon and ending up in Marseille, with terrific car chases, visits to ancient Roman and medieval French sites and landmarks, cafe lunches, moonlit strolls, kidnapping, and lots of derring-do along the way. Charity is a wonderful heroine in the Mary Stewart mold, literary, lovely, and full of the right stuff. Her relationship with David, the boy she meets at the hotel in Avignon, tells you all you need to know about the goodness of her heart. The romance is pretty sappy, but palatable. The suspense is marvelous--definitely couldn't put it down as I neared the end of the story.
This would make a great movie, but alas, I couldn't find one. I would love to see Hallmark devote some effort to bringing Mary Stewart's novels to the screen.
You might enjoy Constance's travelogue to France from October 2021--her post on Avignon is what made me decide this was the year I finally read this book. And yes, Avignon is now on my must-visit list.
The title is from a folk song called I Will Give You the Keys of Heaven from Cheshire.