In The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton, Elizabeth Speller attempts to bring back the English manor house mystery. Unfortunately, she tried, and failed. In 400 pages, Speller tries to bring three or four plot lines together into one long, confusing and yet somehow still blasé novel.
Laurence Bartram, whom Speller introduced in her first novel The Return of Captain John Emmet, is a wounded WWI vet who’s wife died in childbirth while he was stationed in France. After the war, he returns to his former profession as an architectural historian. At the opening of the story, Bartram has arrived in Wiltshire, at Easton Deadall to assist the Easton family in restoring their estate to it’s former glory, in particular the ancient church on the grounds, which has fallen into disuse and disrepair. The current head of the Easton family, Lydia Easton, has also decided to install a new stained glass window in the church to commemorate her dead husband and to build a maze on the estate grounds in honor of the many fallen soldiers of the community.
Laurence learns that thirteen years before, Lydia’s 5-year-old daughter Kitty had vanished one night and was never seen again. Lydia is the only person who still clings to the hope that Kitty is alive and Laurence is intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.