Sunday, May 01, 2022

Madam, Will You Talk - Mary Stewart's 1st novel

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.

France 2021, Day 9, Avignon

The title is from a folk song called I Will Give You the Keys of Heaven from Cheshire.


  1. It's been so long since I read this particular Mary Stewart book I only barely remember it, but I do remember liking it. And I would love it if Hallmark would make Stewart's novels into movies! That would be awesome. :D

  2. Mary Stewart is an author I still haven't tried but, this book sounds very good to me. I purchased several of her books on Kindle when they were on sale. Somehow those Kindle books, for me, become out of sight-out of mind:( I really hope to change that soon

    1. I know what you mean about Kindle books being out of sight, out of mind. I have a few that I really wanted to read, and then promptly forgot about and there they languish. I am easily distracted by those books that literally sit on my shelf and moan about never being read!

    2. Oh, thanks for the mention and I am delighted you enjoyed this book! You can see now why the setting made such an impression on me and my mother, and how great it was to travel there together last fall. I left my tattered paperback with the travel coordinator for the cruise - her English was excellent but I don't know how easy it is for her to read English so I don't know if she will really read it.

      I agree it would be great to dramatize this book but I think it needs a mini-series! Whenever people ask me my dream job (usually because they see my actual job is driving me crazy), I say to be the person at WGBH/PBS who plans all the Masterpiece Theatres!

      My next trip is approaching: a month in London to finish my MLIS with a 6-credit seminar. I don't think I will make it to Hadrian's Wall but I am considering a weekend in Belfast and another in Cornwall. It is a very weird feeling to plan travel in the current climate but as this program was canceled last year, I am grateful it has been rescheduled. The one disappointment was that it was supposed to be 3 weeks in London and 1 in Edinburgh and that week was dropped due to Covid. Oh well.

  3. Hi Jane, I wanted to post with my own account, Kathy at Reading Matters but something has gone wrong so sorry about the annonymous Google icon. I am fascinated by the novels of Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. And yet I have not read Holt or Whitney and only one book by Stewart, Wildfire at Midnight which I enjoyed. I have to start diving in to their novels because mid twentieth century romantic suspense mysteries were so well done. And even today I admire Simone St James and Darcy Coates. I see these writers as the descendents of the Brontes, not as great maybe, but I love the gothic romantic suspense genre

  4. Hi Jane, just to let you know that, thanks to your review, I’ve added this book to my wish list. I quoted a passage from this post and link it up in my post: