The Man on the Cliff
Kate Neeson is a freelance writer from Santa Monica, California. She finally has a chance to work full time at a magazine, but first she needs a really big story. So she goes to Ireland to find out the truth behind singer Moruadh Maguire’s death: was it an accident or murder?
Kate, who’d had a few phone conversations with Moruadh and therefore felt they were friends, believes Moruadh was murdered by her husband, Niall, and plans to prove it. Based on local gossip and opinion in Cragg’s Head, Ireland, Kate believes she’s right, until she meets the enigmatic Niall Maguire. They have a few brief meetings before she knows who he is, and she’s immediately attracted to him. That attraction makes her question herself: does she think he’s innocent just because of his good looks and how he makes her feel? When another woman Niall was romantically linked to shows up dead, killed in the same manner as Moruadh, Kate has to choose been her heart and her head, or she just might be the next victim.
Usually when I read a gothic novel, my biggest peeve is the heroine getting involved with the hero while she still thinks there is a possibility he’s a murderer. At least here, for the most part, Kate resolves her opinion of Niall’s guilt before getting involved with him. Unfortunately, Kate remains wishy-washy throughout the entire book because she doesn’t trust her own instincts, though that didn’t stop her from pursuing a relationship with Niall in spite of everything.
The reader is given a little bit more time in Niall’s point of view than normally happens in a gothic novel, so the reader realizes why everyone in town thinks he’s a murderer. After an emotionally abusive childhood, he’s learned to just ignore the talk and live inside his own thoughts. Needless to say, those around him take this to mean he’s cold and distant. He’s also a very big on privacy, and the secrets he’s learned to keep to protect others are his downfall.
While I could understand Kate and Niall’s motivations, it was the diverse cast of secondary characters that gave me problems. Annie, who runs the local B&B, is very controlling and I kept waiting for Kate to tell her to butt out. Kate is a grown woman in her thirties but Annie treats her like a 15-year-old, forcing a curfew and threatening to send her husband or the police after Kate if she spends too much time with Niall. Why Annie felt she had the right to be so bossy and interfering was never justified to my satisfaction. And while the villain’s motivations for killing Moruadh and framing Niall are very clear, the motivation for the second woman’s death and the threat to Kate were not clear, except that the villain seemed to have another grudge to lay at Niall’s door. It all seemed superfluous.
But sadly, my biggest problem with this story was I could not believe in the HEA ending. Kate and Niall have only known each other ten days, both have serious psychological issues about trust and loyalty going back to childhood, and their relationship didn’t get off to the best start with Kate coming to town for the sole purpose of accusing him of murder.
The Man on the Cliff shows a lot of promise and has a very intriguing story, but in the end I just wasn’t satisfied with the story and unable to believe in its outcome. This is author MacDonald’s second book; perhaps she’ll get better with her third.