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The Shape of Sand Hardcover – December 27, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (December 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312352328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312352325
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,807,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Eccles, best known for her cozy police procedurals (Untimely Graves, etc.), delivers a stellar stand-alone, a novel of suspense set in post-WWII Britain that harks back to the early 20th century. In 1946, when Harriet Jardine receives a cardboard box of letters and notebooks found during the demolition and remodeling of Charnley, her family's former country house, she knows that she and her two sisters will have to face memories they would rather leave alone—in particular, their mother's disappearance decades earlier after an elaborate birthday party. Determined to seek out the truth, Harriet and her sisters act on one clue to their mother's fate by organizing a trip to Egypt, but when a mummified body turns up in the walls of Charnley, Harriet looks for answers closer to home. In lyrical prose, Eccles contrasts the world of Edwardian society, with its frivolous fashions and its prescribed manners and mores, with the devastating changes wrought by two world wars. Fine characterizations and an absorbing plot will please not just fans of Eccles's Supt. Gil Mayo series. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Readers who seek a fast-paced, action-packed crime novel will not find succor here, but those who have the time and inclination to savor eloquent prose will be well satisfied. Eccles' story, set in 1946, flashes back to 1910 and the British estate called Charnley, home of the Jardine family. Sisters Vita, Harriet, and Daisy are enjoying a weekend with their brother, Marcus, their parents, and various guests. When their lovely mother, Beatrice, is missing the next day, some fear that she has run off to Egypt with the handsome Valery Iskander. Back in 1946, the sisters reunite when builders renovating their former family home uncover the mummified body of their strangled mother behind a wall. When investigating the crime, Harriet and Daisy discover that a lot more was happening in the summer of 1910 than they ever imagined. Meanwhile, Vita has secrets of her own concerning her husband, their father's best friend. Genre veteran Eccles, author of the Gil Mayo series, paints a rich and complex portrait that must be appreciated gradually, as the nuances of character unfold. Jenny McLarin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By tregatt on February 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
While I have enjoyed Marjorie Eccles' Gil Mayo mystery novels -- they're carefully and well executed police procedurals -- I was not expecting anything quite so enthralling and tantalising as "The Shape of Sand." A historical novel that moves between events that took place in 1910 and (currently) 1946, "The Shape of Sand" is the kind of book that I'd advise having a couple of hours at one's disposal to sit down and enjoy without interruptions. Believe me, you'll not want to put down this book until you've finished it!

The war's over and although the Jardines have not lived in their family estate, Charnley, since it was sold before WWI, Harriet Jardine finds herself walking down the ancestral corridors once more when she comes to collect a box full of old photographs and memobrilia found during some renovation work. The box awakens memories of what happened that fateful summer in 1910 when Harriet's beautiful mother, Beatrice, suddenly disappeared during a house party. Everyone had assumed that Beatrice had run off with the handsome Egyptian archaeologist, Valery Iskander, when it was discovered that he too had hurriedly left the estate on the same night. It is a mystery that has haunted the Jardine siblings, Harriet, Vita, Daisy and their older brother, Matthew, and it is one that Harriet is determined to solve. And she rather hopes that this box may hold some key to what happened all those years ago. But things take an unexpected and horrific turn when the workers at Charnley make a very grisly find...

As I have already noted, "The Shape of Sand" is the kind of elegant and haunting novel that requires uninterrupted reading so that one can truly savour all the many quiet nuances that the novel offers as well as appreciate Marjorie Eccles' brilliant character portrayals.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It is the year 1910, King Edward has just died, and George has just been proclaimed the new King of England. Whilst the nation steadily adjusts to a changing monarch, Beatrice Jardine, the exquisitely beautiful mistress of the stately Charnley Manor is about to celebrate her forty-fourth birthday. Put on by Amory, her wealthy, loyal, and conspicuously devoted husband, the party includes a guest list that is an absolute smorgasbord of rich aristocracy. No expense is to be spared in providing a celebration for his beloved wife, and it is hoped Beatrice and her friends will remember the evening for many a year to come.

Unfortunately the party will have disastrous consequences for all, for next morning it is discovered that Beatrice has mysteriously gone missing. Her dearly loved four children Marcus, Harriet, Vita, and Daisy are fraught with worry, fearful not just for their darling mother's well-being, but also for the survival of their insular and carefully constructed world of privilege and opportunity, now in serious danger of crashing down around them.

A search of the house and grounds ensures; there are frantic calls to friends and relatives; and contact is made with several guests from the party the night before, but Beatrice remains undiscovered, her disappearance enigmatic and strangely disturbing. Soon the scandalous whiff of betrayal begins hover; she was seen flirting with the simmering and impatient Kit, a much younger man who was obviously enamored of her, and the next morning, Valery Iskander, Beatrice's archaeologist friend from Egypt, hurriedly left the Estate, neglecting to give a formal goodbye.

Also missing is Beatrice's leather valise, a silver hairbrush, a walking costume, and some delicately embroidered silk underclothing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amy Goebel Padgett VINE VOICE on September 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After seeing the Gil Mayo Mysteries on BBC America (please, please bring those back, BBC!) I picked up this book. There weren't many books by Eccles available and that's a real shame. I was floored by this book and have even been trying to get my husband to read it.

The characters and sense of time/place are so vivid in this book, you get a true sense of what England must have been like in that brief, golden flash of time before the World Wars brought such a civilized, extraordinarily luxuriant lifestyle to an end. You get such a wonderful glimpse of the Edwardian ladies with their corsets, long dresses, rolls of thick hair and large hats... And the characterizations are brilliant.

Since buying this book, I've gone out and bought every other Eccles book I could find. What a gifted author.
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Format: Hardcover
This was very slow paced, nothing actually happened until the middle of the book, but their wasn't much character development either to keep you engaged.

Right from the time the murder took place I guessed one of the murder's but their were no clues to even let you guess the second and their all the other suspects seemed 2-d and flat.

It wasn't until 2 or 3 pages until the end when the murderer was reveled and this was in a suicide not not even a suspect by the police or the amatuer sleuth's who played part in the novel - this made me unsatisfied what was the point of the policeman or the sleuth's if they played no purpose in solving the crime. All the sleuth did was set the scene.

It also seemed unlikely that the murderer would commit the murder under the circumstances.

The romance that also started in the novel appeared to have no ending and we are left just guessing if it transpired into anything without even a subtle hint.

It felt like so much effort had been put intosetting the scene (1/2 a book as i already said)get the ending felt rushed like the author just wanted it over and done with.

As the murdered commited suicide and left a note their was no interigation or climax which left me feeling rather disipointed and more like a anto-climax and the end like - was that it???

would not recommend left me feeling frustrated at the end of reading it - liek what was the point!!
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