I was in a bookshop in my home town of Winchester in late May and The Feast by Margaret Kennedy caught my eye and was then recommended to me by one of the staff. It seemed appropriate summer reading for my various trips in July, August and September down to Cornwall and Devon, so I embarked on it on the beautiful train journey down to Plymouth in late July.
It is set in post-war Cornwall, where a well-to-do and lazy family have fallen on hard times and find themselves running a guest house at the bottom of a cliff, with an interesting assortment of guests who represent the seven deadly sins. From the beginning you know that they will reach their comeuppance soon, as the opening chapter has two vicars sitting down together on their annual meet-up, discussing the awful tragedy that has recently occurred when a cliff has toppled into the sea, demolishing a guest house and its occupants beneath. The book then returns, day by day, to the week leading up the disaster, and you are easily able to decide who needs to escape the guest house in time, and who frankly doesn’t deserve to. As the introduction to the book says, it’s interesting that many of the undeserving characters are parents who their children would seem better off without.
This is a great summer read, with such a good set-up and then a pacer build up towards ‘the feast’ that the children are planning. I finished it that evening in my hotel in Plymouth and was very tempted to go back to he beginning and start again, and promptly bought it for my sister. It’s a great example from a lesser known author from the great mid twentieth century period of detective fiction.