Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart

Touch not the Cat cover

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart was published in 1976 and it must have been around about then that I first read it. I couldn’t remember an awful lot about the book (it was a long time ago after all) but I did remember that the family crest had something to do with the storyline. Judith @ Reader in the Wilderness and I decided to read this one at the same time and she plans to get her post up about it soon.

This is a light read, you might call it a comfort read, perfect holiday or summertime reading. The setting is mainly Herefordshire in England in the 1970s although the book does begin in Madeira where Bryony Ashley is working at a hotel that is owned by her father’s friend, it’s just a holiday job for her but tragedy strikes when Bryony’s father is knocked down and killed by a hit and run car in Germany. Her father wasn’t killed outright and his last words have been written down for Bryony, as the doctors know that she won’t get to his bedside before he dies. There is a tradition of a sort of telepathy within the Ashley family and Bryony has it as has one of her male relatives, but she doesn’t know which one it is that communicates with her through thought.

Bryony is now an orphan and even worse than that her family home Ashley Court is entailed meaning that it has to be passed on down the male line in the family. Ashley Court is practically a ruin, an ancient moated house which has suffered from a lack of maintenance for years. It’ll be a millstone around the neck of the eldest Ashley cousin Emory, even more than Bryony realises because she discovers that that branch of the family is equally skint when she and her father had believed them to be very well off.

The police have never been able to track down whoever killed Bryony’s father and she begins to think that it wasn’t a simple accident. Did her cousins have something to do with it? Which of her cousins is it that she has a mental link with, being able to communicate through telepathy.

Bryony is suspicious of her cousins, would they have killed her father to get their hands on Ashley Court and the land around it?

With romance thrown in and some lovely descriptions of the surroundings, something always expected in a Mary Stewart book, this was an enjoyable read. Mind you I always compare any of her books with her Merlin/Arthurian trilogy, that ended up being a series of five books. Those books are still my favourites.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge, I’ve now read thirteen Scottish books so far this year.

Mary Stewart 1916-2014

It was with sadness but no surprise that I read Mary Stewart’s obituary in the Guardian yesterday, after all she was 97. I think I’ve read most of her books over the years but it is her Merlin trilogy which I enjoyed most, years later she added another two books to the series.

I read the Merlin ones as they were first published, having to wait for the next one to be written and I remember that I had always meant to write to her as in one of the books she had mentioned King Arthur being at Dumbarton Castle, I wanted to ask her if she had entirely made that up or she had seen it written in an old document or book. But I never did get around to writing that letter, and having read her obituary I think maybe she wouldn’t have appreciated letters from readers, as she was such a private person.

We probably do have to thank a disastrous ectopic pregnancy and subsequent peritonitis which meant that she couldn’t have any children for her being able to write at all. Apparently she had wanted four children and if she had then any thoughts of having a writing career would probably have gone out the window for a good number of years anyway.

You can read some tributes from authors which appeared in yesterday’s Guardian here.

Although Mary Stewart was born in the north of England she did marry a Scot and lived most of her life in Scotland, so she definitely qualifies as a Scottish author for the Read Scotland 2014 challenge.