Mary Queen of Plots

The writing of Mary Stewart (1916-2014)

Wildfire at Midnight

Wildfire at Midnight. Hodder and Stoughton 1st edition, 1956. Illustrator: Eleanor Poore

Wildfire at Midnight is Mary Stewart’s second published novel. It is set on the Isle of Skye in 1953, at the time of both the British Mount Everest expedition and Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

Gianetta has come to Skye to escape the crowds gathering for the  coronation in  London but finds herself in a nightmare situation as there is a killer on the island and she does not know who she can trust. Towards the end of the book, there is a murderous game of hide-and-seek in the fog that is genuinely terrifying. Like I did, you may find yourself holding your breath with Gianetta, as she tries to hide silently with her pursuer chillingly close by…

Mary Stewart’s chase scenes are so vivid that you feel as though you are being hunted too. Another strength is the writer’s use of setting, which is written with flair and beauty – and the mountains in Wildfire at Midnight are central to the story. The ascent of Everest is echoed by the climbers on Blaven, just as the wait to find out how the Everest expedition is faring is replicated by the waiting for news of what has happened to a missing hotel guest. Perhaps too the ritualistic coronation of a queen is being mimicked by the removal of jewellery from Heather Macrae?

I was standing three feet from the door, with my hands, in rigid fists, pressed down against the front of my thighs. My heart began to jerk in slow, sickening thuds. I stood, turned to marble, with my eyes on the door, while the seconds ticked madly by on the little bedside clock.

Ever so gently, the door-handle turned.

Characters:

Gianetta Drury nee Brooke (narrator)

Ronald Beagle; Marion Bradford; Alastair Braine; Alma Corrigan; Hartley Corrigan;  Col. & Mrs. Cowdray-Simpson; Nicholas Drury; Jamesy Farlane; Roderick Grant; Hubert Hay; Rhodri MacDowell; Dougal  Macrae; Marcia Maling; Major Bill Persimmon; Roberta Symes; Fergus; Murdo; Inspector Mackenzie; Sgt. Hector Munro.

Setting:

Isle of Skye, Scotland.

First Line:

In the first place, I suppose, it was my parents’ fault for giving me a silly name like Gianetta.

See also my blog post Geek Corner: Wildfire at Midnight.

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