skygiants: Fakir from Princess Tutu leaping through a window; text 'doors are for the weak' (drama!!!)
[personal profile] skygiants
Mary Stewart's Wildfires at Midnight was another emergency used-bookstore Gothic novel purchase for my plane ride today, but, alas, kind of a disappointing one.

Wildfires at Midnight traps Our Heroine, fashion model Gianetta, at a vacation-and-fishing lodge in the beautiful mountains of Skye with a Wacky Cast of Characters including:

- a movie star
- a couple of ambiguously lesbian mountain-climbers
- a more famous mountain-climber
- a writer of travel guides
- a happy Boring Fishing Couple
- an unhappy Boring Fishing Couple
- Gianetta's famous writer ex-husband, who cheated on her after they realized they had nothing in common
- Gianetta's alternate love interest, an attractive man with a tragic past
- Gianetta's husband's buddy with no personality

So far so Gilligan's Island, except of course that one of them is ... a MURDERER!!!

Which seems like an OK setup, except all of these people are awfully boring and somewhat indistinguishable (I kept forgetting which boring fishing couple was which, and mixing up Gianetta's husband's buddy with Gianetta's alternate love interest) and the ones who do show a glimmer of being interesting (i.e., most of the other women) disappear from the story with pretty astounding speed. (Not all dead! But the ones who are not dead are still written off into places where they cannot be interesting anymore.)


In the thrilling finale, it turns out that Gianetta's alternate love interest is the murderer (as is obvious, because he's attractive and seems nice, and this is a Gothic). His motivation? Well, you see, his tragic childhood + hereditary insanity somehow led him to invent a religion that worships MOUNTAINS, which causes him to hate PEOPLE WHO TRY TO CONQUER MOUNTAINS! And he has therefore been wandering around murdering innocent mountaineers all season, with an occasional pagan bonfire human sacrifice just to keep things interesting.

Gianetta, meanwhile, aroused his romantic interest because she said once she thought it would be a shame if anyone successfully climbed Everest, thus revealing her to be one of the few people who Properly Respect Mountains.

However their love is not to be because a.) he has murdered SO MANY innocent mountaineers and b.) Gianetta's designated love interest is, of course, the ex-husband who cheated on her because they had nothing in common. They have two conversations in the course of the book. In the first conversation, he corners her sinisterly in a hallway and freaks her out by demanding to know she would do if it turned out he was the murderer. In the second one, he rescues her from her alternate love interest and they decide to get remarried. I hope they'll be very happy, but I admit I have my doubts.

Date: 2017-02-03 01:11 am (UTC)
in_the_blue: (don't even get me started on...)
From: [personal profile] in_the_blue
That sounds almost terrifically horrible.

Although the whole worshiping mountains thing is pretty novel.

Date: 2017-02-03 01:25 am (UTC)
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)
From: [personal profile] sovay
- a writer of travel guides

I was extremely fond of Hubert Hay and glad he did not turn out to be the secret mountain-mad murderer, because that sort of thing happens to favorite characters of mine all the time in this genre. I actually like Grant's whacked-out self-invented mountain sacrifice religion because it isn't a version of fake paganism I'd seen before; it's not the earliest fictional serial killing I've encountered, because I think that was Dorothy B. Hughes' In a Lonely Place (1947), but it does predate most of the famous twentieth-century examples and therefore I can't blame the characters for not figuring it out immediately. Otherwise Wildfire at Midnight has gone down as the Mary Stewart I finally bounced off of ("its mystery is perfectly well-constructed but its romance depends on reconciliation between two people who had really good reasons to be divorced") and I'm sorry it doesn't really work, because I like so many of the pieces. I genuinely did not expect the happy ending, because I did not think it would be a good idea. I still don't.

- Gianetta's husband's buddy with no personality

Yeah, I'd actually forgotten he exists.
Edited Date: 2017-02-03 01:31 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-02-04 12:52 am (UTC)
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
From: [personal profile] sovay
I had no fears for his good character, because he was not described as attractive, and in a Gothic where there were two rival claimants for the heroine's hand clearly one of them had to be the murderer and he was not it.

See, the harmless adorkable character turning out to be the (usually batshit) murderer is such a staple mystery trope that I didn't trust it to be overwritten by the Gothic!

I think what threw me most about the serial killing was that it's set up very clearly and seriously as pagan ritual murder and then it's like "oh, ALSO he was just chopping ropes at random so mountaineers would fall to their deaths" and, perhaps unreasonably, the cry of my heart was "pick one or the other! Why BOTH?"

Opportunity!

There is no reason to remember he exists, because he literally does not do anything except confuse me by having a name the same number of syllables as the murderer's.

. . . what's his name?

Date: 2017-02-03 02:40 am (UTC)
rushthatspeaks: (dirk: be uncertain about this)
From: [personal profile] rushthatspeaks
Okay, even for a Gothic that motivation for murder is a new one on me.

Date: 2017-02-03 02:52 am (UTC)
onyxlynx: The words "Onyx" and "Lynx" with x superimposed (Default)
From: [personal profile] onyxlynx
Mary Stewart novels used to turn up as condensed novels at the back of Cosmopolitan, so I've read a couple--I may even have read this one.

I've probably filed her with Mary Higgins Clark, in that I-see-that-skeleton sense.

Date: 2017-02-03 04:24 pm (UTC)
onyxlynx: The words "Onyx" and "Lynx" with x superimposed (Default)
From: [personal profile] onyxlynx
It was back in the '60s, so I'm probably remembering imperfectly, but I think they may have cut extraneous description and possibly characters and subplots as well. Many years later, I read an uncondensed version of one of those novels and it made somewhat more sense. (Mephisto Waltz, I think.)

Date: 2017-02-03 04:14 pm (UTC)
antisoppist: (Reading)
From: [personal profile] antisoppist
My mother had all the Mary Stewarts and my sisters and I read them all and used to test each other on who the love interest and who the murderer was in each one. I maintain that the fact that Wildfire at Midnight was Little Sister's favourite is cause for serious concern.

Me: But he's a psychopath who goes round saying But They Climbed The Sacred Mountain so They Must Die!
Her: I know! Isn't it great!

Date: 2017-02-04 12:53 am (UTC)
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Or the one where she spends the whole book insisting that she's a different person than she actually is despite literally everybody recognizing her and gets away with it through sheer ballsiness?

I love that one.

Date: 2017-02-04 01:20 pm (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
That one's my favourite!

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