The story is set in England not long after World War I. And also 2003. England around WWI (or WWII) is not my favorite setting but I do like multiple POVs and narrators, which we get here, so that's fun.
It's a mystery. Or really, a bunch of mysteries. Like, too many mysteries. Several mysteries could have been cut. Probably should have been. In order to keep things straight I kept a list on my phone. I got up to 17 mysteries of various sizes. That is too many mysteries and a list is necessary.
The primary mystery starts back in 1933 when the Edevane* family threw their annual midsummer party at at their lakeside estate, Loeanneth. You know it's a fancy place because the house has a name. Eleanor, the matriarch of the house, is busy obsessing over every detail to make sure the party is perfect. Her 16-year-old daughter Alice is a burgeoning mystery writer and cannot seem to make her mother happy. There are two other daughters, one older and one younger than Alice around doing...something, but it's been awhile and I can't remember what exactly. Father Anthony was somewhere, most likely his study. And then baby Theo was busy being adorable until it was time for him to be put to bed, before the fireworks started. All goes well at the party, but the next morning Theo is missing.
The story then jumps to 2003, with Sadie, a detective from London who is currently on leave from her job due to...an incident. She's staying with her grandfather in Cornwall and comes across the overgrown Loeanneth property and decides she wants to understand what went down in this house.
There's a lot of people keeping secrets, or people jumping to conclusions and then keeping said conclusions secret. I won't get into any more plot details because of said secrets.
Some of the mysteries are good and they're interesting and the motivations make sense so things are satisfying. Others aren't bad, they just feel unnecessary and take away from the main story so you're spending mental energy trying to figure out (or just keep track) of everything going on.
There were also some issues I had with the writing.
Alice experienced one of her swift certainties then. She wasn't sure where they came from, these insights into other people's states of mind, only that they arrived unexpectedly and fully formed. She just knew things sometimes.Unfortunately this isn't foreshadowing to Alice having some sort of mind-reading skills. Instead it just comes off as lazy writing. No, ma'am, I'm not just going to trust Alice's intuitions about people cos you told me to. You're going to have to do a better job making the other people's actions match their motivations and have Alice be right about this OR you're going to have to show Alice being super intuitive. Or whatever, make her psychic. But this? No thank you.
There were some good parts. The characters were more fleshed out than I initially thought they would be. They're given a chance to grow and change and actually make decisions that make sense. Or at least make sense for them. And again, the main mystery is an interesting one.
So overall, the book is fine. If you like mysteries and this setting is your thing, go for it. It's on the long side (like 600 pages) so be forewarned.
Title quote from page 140, location 1722
Morton, Kate. The Late House. Atria Books, 2015. Kindle