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Madame, Will You Talk? summary

cover for Madam, Will You Talk

Quick Facts

Publication Date: 1955
Genre: Romantic Suspense (Contemporary)
Heroine: Charity Selborne, widow, teacher
Hero: Too spoilerish to tell!
Setting: South of France (Avignon, Nimes, Marseilles)
Plot elements: Car chase, Antiques, Roman ruins, WWII
Find links to reader reviews
View photos of the setting at the Mary Stewart blog
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Madam Will You Talk summary

This will introduce an exciting new author who writes English for Americans with taste.

Mary Stewart has a keen wit, a zest for adventure, an eye for the details that turn "characters" into interesting memorable people. From a standing start, she leads you on a swift, breathless chase that turns this quiet story into a perfectly splendid novel of suspense.

Her setting is the south of France. Two young Englishwomen arrive on vacation, expecting a conventional holiday. They are Charity Selborne, an extravagantly lovely war widow, and her amusing, irreverent artist friend, Louise Cray. The enchanting vista of Provence delights them, and Charity is pleased to make her first conquest, a young man of thirteen who is having trouble with his dog.

The young man introduces himself and Charity is charmed . . . until she senses terrible maturity behind his grave eyes.

From that point on the tension mounts steadily until it reaches breaking point, while the thirsty heat of the Provencal summer, the noise of cicadas, the dust of country roads all contribute to the superb realism of the novel.

There is a fine love affair, but as one English writer remarked, "For once love interest doesn't hold up the story."

In effect, here is a real find.

---jacket, William Morrow edition, 1956


The whole affair began so very quietly. When I wrote, that summer, and asked my friend Louise if she would come with me on a car trip to Provence, I had no idea that I might be issuing an invitation to danger. And when we arrived one afternoon, after a hot but leisurely journey, at the enchanting little walled city of Avignon, we felt in that mood of pleasant weariness mingled with anticipation which marks, I believe, the beginning of every normal holiday.

No cloud in the sky; no sombre shadow on the machiolated walls; no piercing glance from an enigmatic stranger as we drove in at the Porte de la Republique and up the sun-dappled Cours Jean-Jaures. And certainly no involuntary shiver of apprehension as we drew up at last in front of the Hotel Tistet-Vedene, where we had booked rooms for the greater part of our stay.

I even sang to myself as I put the car away, and when I found they had given me a room with a balcony overlooking the shaded courtyard, I was pleased.

And when, later on, the cat jumped on to my balcony, there was still nothing to indicate that this was the beginning of the whole strange, uneasy, tangled business. Or rather, not the beginning, but my own cue, the point where I came in. And though the part I was to play in the tragedy was to break and re-form the pattern of my whole life, yet it was a very minor part, little more than a walk-on in the last act. For most of the play had been played already; there had been love and lust and revenge and fear and murder--all the blood-tragedy bric-a-brac except the Ghost--and now the killer, with blood enough on his hands, was waiting in the wings for the lights to go up again, on the last kill that would bring the final curtain down.

How was I to know, that lovely quiet afternoon, that most of the actors in the tragedy were at that moment assembled in this neat, unpretentious little Provencal hotel? All but one, that is, and he, with murder in his mind, was not so very far away, moving, under that blazing southern sun, in the dark circle of his own personal hell. A circle that narrowed, gradually, upon the Hotel Tistet-Vedene, Avignon.

Copyright 1955, Mary Stewart

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