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Undertow    by Lesley Grant-Adamson order for
by Lesley Grant-Adamson
Order:  USA  Can
New English Library, 2000 (2000)
Paperback, Audio
* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Undertow is set in lonely Stark Point, a small English village on a peninsula. Adamson, who has written several previous books, depicts an isolated village of mostly unfriendly residents who do not welcome incomer Alice when she arrives to live in the cottage bequeathed to her by her aunt.

Alice is an engaging heroine, a cheerful young woman who has taken the summer off from work to try her hand at writing poetry. Separated from her husband Rod, she is living with the dour Charles in an uneasy match of very different personalities. Alice loves the coastal setting and the mesh of daily life with the moods and rythms of the sea. However, she soons discovers that Stark Point is not a cosy little picture book village but rather one full of nosy, suspicious and envious people who refuse her every friendly overture.

She turns for friendship to the other apparent outsider in the village - beachcomber Joe Keenethorpe. Soon Alice finds that there is much more to Joe than meets the eye, and she begins to discover a fascinating old mystery. Grant-Adamson uses a technique common in fiction, that of situating an old mystery tale inside a modern story. Not all authors do this well and frequently one or the other story is just not that interesting. However, both are intriguing in Undertow.

In the present day story, the reader follows Alice as she learns more about herself and fights to preserve some independence in the face of the two domineering men in her life - Charles initially and then more and more her almost ex-husband Rod. The old mystery follows a fascinating young couple who disappeared shortly after World War II, and whose lives are inextricably linked with Joe Keenethorne.

Undertow is a bit slow in developing momentum, and readers will probably get impatient with Alice's passivity when Rod returns and attempts to take over her life. However, perseverance will be well-rewarded by a good read. In addition, the author has done a great job of creating characters who really breathe life, especially Alice's two neighbors: Iris and her daughter Mary and Joe Keenethorne. All in all the book is well worth the time spent.

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