cover image The Yellow Room Conspiracy

The Yellow Room Conspiracy

Peter Dickinson. Mysterious Press, $18.95 (261pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-556-4

The yellow room was one of about 50 in Blatchards, an old mansion near Bury St. Edmonds. Owned by Lord Vereker, Blatchards was dominated by his five striking daughters whose politics and personal lives in the 1930s and '40s are at the heart of Dickinson's bittersweet and subtly compelling tale. Flashbacks told in alternating chapters by Lucy Vereker, the third daughter, and her lover Paul Ackerley, now near the end of their lives, describe events that culminated in the 1956 fire that destroyed the house, an event that each one thought the other may have, in different ways, engineered. The fire covered up evidence about the death--accident, suicide or murder?--of Gerry Grantworth, the eldest daughter's husband, and coincided with a public scandal involving Lucy's husband, Tommy Seddon, the Lord Seneschal. Intelligence work (during and after WW II and involving Lucy, Paul and Gerry), delicate Foreign Office operations and financial misdealings mix with sexual liaisons, marriages and life-long romances and jealousies in the rapidly shifting postwar culture. Deft and absorbing, Dickinson's ( Play Dead ; The Last Houseparty ) latest is as much a story of enduring love--of people and a way of life--as it is an intriguing mystery. (May)