I can’t count the many times that I’ve read My Brother Michael. It’s one of the less romantic of Mary Stewart's romantic suspense novels. But it always seems to grab me and move me quickly toward the brilliant blinding end that is nothing short of perfect.
Of course all of Stewart’s novels are favorites of mine, some more so than others. I read Nine Coaches Waiting first, my mother passing me along a dog-eared copy that I quickly fell in love with. Then there was Wildfire at Midnight and The Moonspinners, both of which captured my imagination. No one does it better than Mary Stewart when it comes to classic romantic suspense.
My Brother Michael opens with Camilla Haven’s lament that “Nothing ever happens to me.” Vacationing in Greece after the breakup of a long-term engagement, Camilla feels as if she isn’t up to an adventure even if one came her way, though she longs to have one. With her finances strained from over-indulging along her trip, Camilla is trying to find a way to get to Delphi as cheaply as possible.
Sitting in a café in Athens and finishing her letter to a friend back at home in England Camilla is mistaken for another woman, Simon’s Girl, and given a car to drive to Delphi. Since Camilla wanted to see Delphi anyway this coincidence is too much to pass up and she assumes the identity of Simon’s Girl and sets out in search of this mysterious Simon. Not to mention that the man who dropped the car off said it was a matter of “life and death” and how could any girl possibly resist that?
When Camilla finds Simon she discovers that he did not order a car up from Athens nor does he know why it would be considered a matter of “life and death.” But Simon takes Camilla under his wing and takes the responsibility of the car off her tired shoulders. Together the two investigate who could have ordered the car and why they would have used his name.
Camilla soon discovers that Simon is in Delphi to lay to rest the ghost of his brother Michael, who passed away there during World War II. But what Simon thought was an honorable death in battle turns out to be murder. Soon the two are uncovering the truth of Michael’s death and they discover that Michael’s killer could still be around. Over the baking rocks and ruins of ancient Delphi and into the cool caves that litter the hills Simon and Camilla slowly uncover the long buried truth.
Written in 1959, My Brother Michael gives you such a feel for the era. Our customs and attitudes towards the opposite sex have changed enough that reading the novel would come across as dated to a younger person. The idea that a man should look after a woman, even if it’s only a girl he happened to have met that afternoon, really comes across throughout the book.
Camilla is never left to fend for herself, nor is she expected to. She is offered cigarettes and a light, while climbing over rough ground Simon is there to hold her elbow and make sure she doesn’t fall, and apples are peeled for her. The issue of a car she didn’t rent in Simon’s name is something that he automatically takes on because that’s what a gentleman does. Not that Camilla couldn’t do these things for herself, that is never the issue – it’s the fact that Simon and the other men throughout the book feel that those things should be handled for her.
My only complaint about this reissue of My Brother Michael is that there were a few typos. It’s not anything big and it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel but having read different issues before I did pick up on them. This, however, shouldn't deter you from picking up a copy of one of the best romantic suspense novels ever written.