I've read a couple of Torday's novels in the past and surprised myself by how much I enjoyed them as his books are not my usual sort of read.
The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall introduces us to a eclectic bunch of characters, headed up by Ed Hartlepool and ably assisted by Annabel Gazebee and Lady Alice Birtley.
Ed has just returned to his ancestral home after a five year spell of living in exile in France.
During those five years Ed has left his correspondence unread and ignored telephone calls so returning to find that the Hartlepool Hall estate is £7 million in the red comes as something as a shock to him.
Another shock is Lady Alice, recently taken up residence at Hartlepool Hall, but something of a mysterious character. Annabel is one of the country 'set', an old friend who would like to be more than friends with him, who lives with her elderly, miserly father in the same village.
Paul Torday's writing and style is unique to him, he creates unusual characters and entertaining if sometimes almost farcical plots, but does it with great ease and the readability factor in his novel is very high.
At first the characters appear one-dimensional; poor little rich kids who've never worked and led a life of shooting, fishing, servants and gentry, and can appear foolish and mildly irritating.
As the story progresses and Ed realises that he is about to lose the Hall, and his lifestyle and Annabel's life gets darker and darker, the more serious subject of mental illness is touched upon.
The story becomes tragic and darker and poignant towards the end.
Beautifully written, this story and the characters will remain with me for some time.