This book is great fun. In some ways, it reads like an amalgamation of a magical story of a woman who finds a strange world within a forest and a modern criminal story of searching for a murderer. The book contains both aspects woven together with a certain element of mystery
remaining at the end.
Ariel McPherson's life
is turned upside down with the disappearance of her father, especially when she and her mother discover that her father had a gambling habit and that they are ruined. They have to move to a cottage
her mother owns in a holiday village but are finding that life in a tourist village is very different for people who don't have money any longer. Ariel is unable to find work, and her mother is retreating into fantasies to cope with the devastation of her life.
When Ariel's mother sends her out to collect water from a noted local spring deep in a wood, Ariel's life changes. She meets a strange person at the spring who doesn't let her see his face but talks to her, warning her about dangers in the wood. However, Ariel has to return, despite all the scary tales told to her by a local village woman who looks after them. Soon Ariel finds herself spending much more time with the mysterious man, Louvel, as she goes to work for him in his enormous house within the wood. Louvel's servants all seem to be strange people - either very tall, very short, fat or otherwise unusual.
The bars on the windows suggest that the house might also be a prison; there are strange noises on full moon nights, there are lots of odd rules, and Ariel still has never seen Louvel's face, despite them spending time together.
When Ariel has to return home to deal with new leads on the disappearance of her father, she finds herself cut off from Louvel's life and somehow back in an engagement with her former
fiancé, Michael. However the threads of her life seem intertwined. Louvel appears to still be watching over her,
and there are links between a woman living in Louvel's house and the death of Ariel's father. Can she find out who was to blame for her father's disappearance without imposing on Louvel's privacy?
Can she keep her mother and herself safe, has she brought danger to Louvel's people - and who are those people? And why won't Louvel let her see his face?
The story is written in a great manner with atmospheric descriptions of the wood and Louvel's mansion contrasted with the everyday life when she is in the village or back living at Michael's house. Ariel's investigation into the events surrounding her father's disappearance seems to occur rather easily, with her finding out the necessary information without too much trouble, yet Louvel's hand is always in the background, guiding her and keeping her safe. We never really learn how Louvel is able to do many of the things he does, yet that mystery is part of the fun of the story. The revelation of Louvel at the end of the story
isn't a particular surprise, but the book's discussions of the nature of beauty and treatment of those with disabilities or disfigurements
is food for thought.
This is an excellent read with interesting characters, several mysteries and a satisfactory ending.