cover image Moringquest


Joan Aiken, Author St. Martin's Press $17.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-09339-6

The prolific and talented Aiken ( The Haunting of Lamb House ) falters with this heavy-handed novel. Pandora Crumbe is 16 when her mother brings her to Boxall Hill to call on the Morningquests, the famous, prodigiously talented family that has invited much speculation by the residents of the English country village of Floxby Crucis. She has barely mastered everyone's names when her mother suffers a fatal heart attack, whereupon the Morningquests offer Pandora their help in everything from funeral arrangements to college tuition. Pandora's enduring fascination with the Morningquests battens on their eccentricities and accomplishments (the seven children have published a successful novel, for example) as well as on the obvious puzzles. How had her taciturn mother, the wife of the village veterinarian, become so intimate with Lady Morningquest, a world-class musician? What lies beneath the brothers' and sisters' various alliances and silences? Aiken's revelations seem formulaic, and her narrative suffers from abrupt, disconcerting changes in point of view. Pandora grows into a glamorous painter and equally dramatic destinies claim each of the Morningquests, but every development is so exaggerated as to stagger, not stimulate, the reader. (May)