Bantam, Nov 2003, 24.95, 480 pp.
Although her parents were killed in a traffic accident when she was still a baby Francesca Hatton had a very happy childhood growing up in the River's End estate in the isolated Exe Valley in England. Her five male cousins also lost their parents at a very early age and grew up at River's End where Frances Hatton raised all six grandchildren as one big happy family.
That happiness dissipated as one by one the men were called up to fight for their country. During WWI by 1916, all five Hatton males of Francesca's generation were killed by the Germans in France. Francis is dying and Francesca nursed him during his last tormented days. It is only after his death does she learn that her grandfather had very many secrets including the fact that some prominent people think he is a murderer.
This is Charles Todd's first stand alone book. As Francesca learns what her grandfather is hiding, strangers besiege her demanding something from her and threatening her when she fails to deliver. Some readers will not like the ending because it is not black and white but the questions left dangling add to the thrills that this book delivers. THE MURDER STONE is an unforgettable reading experience.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner