Murder on the Cliffs Review
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Adventurous young Daphne du Maurier doesn’t really care about house parties and London’s high society; she prefers mysterious estates and dusty old books. And when she leaves her family behind in the city to spend the summer searching for inspiration for her first novel in Cornwall, she gets all that and even more.

On her first morning in Cornwall, while wandering down the beach, Daphne stumbles on a dark and fascinating mystery. Following a cry for help, she finds a young girl on the beach, staring down at the lifeless body of a beautiful young woman. The woman, she soon discovers, was Victoria Bastion, fiancée of Lord David Hartley of Padthaway, a beautiful old mansion that looms above the cliffs.

Enchanted by the estate and the secrets it must hold, Daphne finds herself drawn to Padthaway and its mysterious residents—and, thanks to her famous father, she’s welcomed with open arms. Suspecting that Victoria’s death wasn’t accidental, she begins her own investigation—but she soon finds herself becoming attached to a family of would-be murderers.

Inspired by real-life author Daphne du Maurier and her classic gothic novel, Rebecca, Murder on the Cliffs is the first book in a new mystery series, which places the fictionalized young author in the center of the action. And if the series debut is any indication, it’s sure to be a dark and stormy (yet altogether enjoyable) adventure.

If you’ve read Rebecca (or if you’ve seen the Oscar-winning Hitchcock adaptation), you’re sure to recognize the novel’s surroundings. You’ll be familiar with many of the characters, and you’ll notice plenty of tiny references throughout the book, too. Still, it doesn’t feel gimmicky—because Murder on the Cliffs is more than just a work of fan fiction. It’s a standalone novel, with its own cast of characters and its own haunting mystery. Although author Joanna Challis pays homage to her favorite author, she doesn’t get so caught up in capturing du Maurier’s Rebecca that she forgets about telling a story of her own.

Murder on the Cliffs is an eerily gothic mystery with an intriguing cast of characters. Hidden away inside the once majestic Padthaway, the Hartley family and their cagey household staff make the mystery. From the grand and disapproving Lady Hartley to the children’s devoted nurse, Jenny, each one seems to have some sort of motive for killing the woman who would be mistress of Padthaway—and that makes it nearly impossible to guess which one of them (if any) killed Victoria. Fortunately, though, not all of the characters are dark and mysterious. Challis’s du Maurier is a likeable (if naïve) heroine—and her host in Cornwall, the lovable busybody Ewe Sinclaire, adds a light touch of humor to an otherwise rather gloomy story.

Fans of du Maurier will enjoy watching the author—and her beloved novel—come to life in Challis’s Murder on the Cliffs. But even if you’ve never heard of the real Daphne du Maurier, you’ll enjoy reading about the fictional one. Challis’s wonderful sense of atmosphere and her fascinating cast of suspects make Murder on the Cliffs a noteworthy gothic mystery. I look forward to seeing what lurks in the shadows of Challis’s next adventure.

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