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by Reginald Hill
HarperCollins, July 2005
416 pages
ISBN: 0007194811

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In 1992, on Samantha Flood's 11th birthday in Melbourne, she sees a TV documentary about children who were sent from Catholic orphanages in England to Australia during the 1960s, purportedly for a better life.

Sam's father is a moderately successful vintner and he can give her anything she needs. She spends her gap year traveling throughout Australia and then enters university to study maths when she is 19. She discovers that her beloved grandmother is really no blood relation. Granny at 40-something had adopted an infant boy, who is Sam's father. Sam graduates from university and is offered a place at Cambridge. She goes to England and finds out that her blood grandmother was one of those orphans.

Also in 1992, Miguel Ramos Elkington Madero (Mig) is 16. He lives in Spain where his father is an exporter of a famous vintage sherry. Mig has seen visions and has received stigmata since he was a boy of eight. He feels he has a vocation to be a priest. He studies history at Seville University and when he is 23, he enters the seminary but leaves it three years later. He has an accident and while he is recuperating at his mother's home in England, he decides to do some research on Catholic families in England during the 16th century.

Both Sam and Mig end up at The Stranger's House, the remains of a monastery, now a pub and guest house, in the Cumbrian village of Illthwaite. An antipathy develops between them, but they start sharing information and find they do have some things in common. Mig is looking for an ancestor who may have been killed after having been shipwrecked during the rout of the Armada in 1588 and Sam is searching for her real grandmother who she thinks was also named Sam Flood.

Intricate plotting, clever dialogue, and slightly off-kilter characters are the hallmarks of Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe series. This standalone is no different. The stories are intricately intertwined, those of Mig, Sam and the villagers, many of whom have never left Illthwaite. The people hang in one's memory long after the book has been closed and put on the shelf.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, July 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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