Book Review: The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart A young woman is relaxing and daydreaming with her back against Hadrian’s wall in scenic Northumberland when her peaceful afternoon is shattered by an angry young man who yells the name Annabel and proceeds to threaten her. She manages to convince him that she is not the cousin who ran away eight years ago, and his anger transitions into careful consideration. The resemblance is so uncanny and their meeting so timely that he rapidly forms a plan, which he assures her will benefit both of them while hurting no one.
Mary allows herself to be persuaded. Mary’s conscience threatens the perfect plan, almost from the start. She finds that what she agreed to is much harder to do once she’s among the people Annabel cared about — and who cared about Annabel. Why did Annabel run away? And how far will Con go to keep Mary in line?
There’s more than one mystery afoot in this novel and I can promise you that if you read it, you’ll do exactly what I’m doing now — re-read it to fully appreciate Stewart’s subtlety. I love it when an author can legitimately surprise me. For the most part, Stewart gives the reader everything needed to see the whole picture — for the most part. She did cheat, just a bit, I think with one scene and slipped in another. But the bulk of it is right there, if one is quick enough to spot it. And it’s beautifully written — Stewart has an easy narrative style, and a gift with description. Atmospheric suspense at its best. Highly recommended.