The Key of the Chest

Neil Miller Gunn, Author Walker & Company $17.95 (262p) ISBN 978-0-8027-1052-9
Set in a remote Scottish fishing village at the turn of the century, this richly textured novel quickly involves the reader in a baffling mystery. Dougald MacIan informs the local authorities that his brother Charlie tried in vain to rescue a shipwrecked seaman. The sailor's body and his small wooden chest, still locked, are in the brothers' isolated cottage. Suspicion of murder and robbery falls upon both brothers when it is found that the seaman was strangled, and that the reclusive, enigmatic, and impoverished MacIans are now spending money in a reckless fashion. The local gentry, including a young, self-indulgent landholder, his scholarly guest and the area's intuitive and compassionate doctor, have more than a casual interest in the two brothers. The landowner has fallen in love with the minister's daughter, Flora, who was once scandalously involved with Charlie when they were both students at Edinburgh. The villagers are electrified by news of the strangling and by rumors of Charlie and Flora's renewed romance, and many have complex motives of their own for wanting to affix blame and guilt. The mystery is virtually abandoned as the author establishes the psychological motivations of the characters in this thickly romantic and melodramatic tale. Gunn ( Blood Hunt ) died in 1973; this is the second of his works to be published here. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1988
Release date: 10/01/1988
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