Kate Morton’s The Shifting Fog, also published as The House at Riverton, is the story of two sisters, Hannah and Emmeline, and the secret they share. The story is told from the point of view of their housemaid, Grace, now 98 years old, whose memories are sparked by a film director intent on making a film about the manor house at Riverton and the events that led to the tragic death of a young poet in the summer of 1924.
Morton masterfully captures the essence of the Edwardian age, evoking images of the glitter and extravagances of the upper class, as well as the drudgery of the working and living conditions of those ‘in service’, and effectively conveys the attitudes and mindset of the various characters.
Grace is a likeable character, especially in her 98-year-old self. There are times, however, when it seems that she is lurking in the background for the sole purpose of seeing and telling the story of Hannah and Emmeline. Her fascination for the two sisters, and their brother David, seems to start as an only child’s yearning for the company of others her age, and a fascination for the types of games they play that were never a part of her lower-class upbringing. However it soon becomes an obsession that continues into adulthood as a fixation on and loyalty to Hannah that is somewhat unbelievable in the sacrifices she makes.
The mystery is alluded to throughout the book, but does not really start to unravel until the second half of the book. At that point the pace picks up, accelerating to what seems a preordained climax, fated in the way of classic tragedies by misunderstandings, misguided loyalty, untold secrets and an inability to halt the inevitable.
Overall an enjoyable read for those who love historical mystery, romance and the unshakable tragedy of secret love triangles.