When planning a holiday, many of us return to the same spot over and over again, each time basking in the pleasures of experiencing both the old and the new. I was struck by the same feeling while reading the latest book by famed Australian author Kate Morton. Morton broke into the international publishing world with her first book in 2008, “The House at Riverton”, which garnered a number of awards as well as being one of the bestselling titles of that year. That book, as well as the ones that have followed, are a pleasing mix of gothic mystery, a historical setting (for at least some of the action), wealthy protagonists and romantic suspense.
Morton’s new title “The Clockmaker’s Daughter”, occupies similar territory. It is the summer of 1862, when a number of young artists move into Birchwood Manor, in order to spend a summer developing their creativity. By the end of the summer, one woman is dead, another is missing, an heirloom has disappeared and Edward Radcliffe who organized the event has found his life in ruins. Moving into the present, over one hundred and fifty years later, a young archivist named Elodie Winslow finds a sepia photograph and an artist’s sketch of a twin-gabled house by the bend of a river. These discoveries send her on a quest to solve the mystery of what actually happened that summer at Birchwood.
While the book doesn’t break new ground for Morton, it demonstrates why she is so popular. The atmosphere and its fantastical elements seep through the pages and capture the reader as they journey with Elodie in her quest. Elodie is an interesting woman and her deep connection to the events in the past and Birdie Bell, the title character develop at a pace that moves the narrative forward while keeping the reader under its spell.