I had never heard of Trevanian when I picked this up at the library and had no expectations as I often like to read books on spec and discover authors I've never heard of or who write about places I'm unfamiliar with (Basque country in this case). I make a point of never Googling them or reading other reviews until after I have finished their books. Not sure where I was, but it seems I wasn't on the planet (I had small children) when this writer was making a name for himself in the 1980s and this novel is a recent reissue following his death.
Anyhow, this is a tad overwritten psychological drama but it still kept my interest even when I guessed what was coming towards the end. The writing is intellectual and acutely observant of humanity, and its style reminds one of the great classic authors of the 19th Century - which also means that it can be somewhat laboured at times in trying to get its point across without the sparseness of prose of most modern writers.
The narrative is told through the eyes of Jean Marc Montjean, a young doctor assisting in Salies, a town in Basque country. The lovely Katya approaches him one day and asks that he attend her brother, Paul, who has had an accident. Jean Marc discovers Katya is Paul's twin sister and that they live in a villa, Etcheverria, with their father, Monsieur Treville, a retired scholar who has a consuming interest in medieval history. Paul is a sneering, jaded individual who alternately mocks and rejects Jean Marc on the one hand and then openly encourages him to court his sister on the other. Katya sees a ghostly girl in the gardens and obviously has issues with something that happened in the past. The young doctor gets caught up in the family's secrets as he falls in love with Katya.
The book's major strengths are in its intense dialogue and I particularly enjoyed the brief insights into the Basque countryside and character during the feast day, but ultimately there were no real twists that one hopes for in a psychological thriller.
3 ½ stars