My rating: The first and last stories in this otherwise rather mild collection elevate my rating to an overall 7/10. Otherwise, probably not more than a 5, or maybe a 6. All are worth reading, but most are not quite top-of-the-line for this particular author.
In the Preface, the author briefly explains her inspirations, and mentions that these stories show her development as a writer. I think a nice addition to this collection would have been dates of writing or of original publication; this would have added much to my own enjoyment as a long-time Daphne du Maurier reader.
Some excellent, some not so much in this 1980 collection of short stories from throughout the author’s long career. All are very well written; the “less excellent” ones are described as such only in comparison to this author’s absolutely brilliant “best”.
- No Motive ~ Why would a sweet-natured, happily married, expectant mother fatally shoot herself ten minutes after cheerfully ordering new garden furniture? One of the longer stories in this collection, and nicely plotted out. 7/10.
- Panic ~ A casual love affair goes terribly wrong. Fabulously atmospheric, but ultimately slight. The dénouement comes as no surprise. 5/10.
- The Supreme Artist ~ An aging actor gives a most superb performance off stage, and comes abruptly to an intimation of his own mortality. 6/10.
- Adieu Sagesse ~ Two men from the opposite ends of the social spectrum plot their escape from tedious lives. Loved this one; the right people “win”. 8/10.
- Fairy Tale ~ A slight and unlikely snippet of a story of a ne’er-do-well husband and his adoring wife. “Fairy tale”, indeed! 3/10.
- The Rendezvous ~ I expected much from the title story of this collection. A successful author who has spent his life in observation finally arranges an “experience” for himself, only to be disappointed at every turn. In general, well done. But I wanted something just a little bit more. 6/10.
- La Sainte-Vierge ~ Innocence and corruption. A snippet of a story, but very evocative of both. 5/10.
- Leading Lady ~ Cherchez la femme… Another theatrical setting. Daphne used her eyes and ears well when about the backstage world. 6/10.
- Escort ~ A maritime ghost story set in World War II. It’s been done before, but this attempt is reasonably decent. Nice detail on board the ghost ship. 5/10.
- The Lover ~ A damning portrait of a rather vicious “lady’s man”. Didn’t really go anywhere as a story. 4/10.
- The Closing Door ~ A young man faces up to a dire diagnosis. His lover unknowingly twists the knife. No shortage of symbolic situation in this one; I suspect it is one of the earlier efforts of the author. 5/10.
- Indiscretion ~ Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Three lives are changed by a single sentence. A mite too contrived for my full enjoyment. 4/10.
- Angels and Archangels ~ Religion and hypocrisy. The hypocrites win. A bitter little tale. 5/10.
- Split Second ~ This story is the definite high point of the book. A middle-aged woman goes out for a walk, and comes away from a brush with death to a very different world. Or does she? Brutally pathetic, and perfectly written. 9/10.
Here’s another assessment of this collection: