3 more 2010 novels you don't want to miss

2. "The Distant Hours," by Kate Morton


How Gothic is The Distant Hours? Not only does it feature an actual castle crumbling around the ears of the elderly sisters trapped in its towers, two pivotal events take place on dark and stormy nights.

Like Diane Setterfield's bestselling “The Thirteenth Tale,” Kate Morton's third novel turns on an editor solving the mystery behind a beloved book.

In this case it's “The True History of the Mud Man,” by Raymond Blythe, in which two orphans are sent to live with their long-lost uncle in a castle. “[T]hey come to realize that there's more going on than meets the eye, that there's a deep, dark secret lurking beneath it all,” the editor explains to her dad.

“ 'Deep and dark, eh?' ” He smiled a little.

'Oh yes. Both. Very terrible indeed.' ”

When a letter posted in 1941 to her mother is delivered 51 years late, book editor Edie Burchill finds herself becoming obsessed with the Blythes – especially because she learns that as a teen, her mother lived at Milderhurst Castle as an evacuee with the famous writer and his three daughters, Persephone, Seraphina, and Juniper.

Surprised that her mother never mentioned this connection to her favorite book, Edie sets off for Milderhurst. In 1992, Raymond is gone, but the three women are huddled together in the moldy remnants of the castle, with brusque Percy and motherly Saffy looking after Juniper, who's said in the village to have gone mad when her fiancé disappeared in 1941.

Fans of gothic and historical fiction should happily while away “The Distant Hours,” which jumps from World War II to 1992, as Edie tries to discover what happened to Juniper, the origin of “The Mud Man,” and how her mother figures into the tragic history of the Blythe sisters.

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