Trapped in a loveless marriage, Eve Forrester is astounded when she receives a letter informing her she has been named as a beneficiary in the will of Guy Lester, a wealthy man she has never met. When Eve travels to the French Riviera, she learns she has inherited a share of Villa La Perle much to the horror of Guy’s widow and children who assume Eve is just one of a long line of mistresses.
Dismayed by the hostility from the Lesters, Eve is determined to discover the truth behind her inheritance but she doesn’t know who to trust and a series of mishaps indicate her life may be in danger. Despite this, Eve is drawn to the brightness of life on the Riviera and she is soon caught up in the excitement of the approaching wedding between Hollywood superstar Gloria Hayes and her playboy fiancé, Laurent, who has a murky past. Feeling more alive than she has ever been, Eve refuses to listen to her husband’s orders to come home and soon finds herself torn between Victor Meunier, an art dealer, and Noel Lester, the eldest son.
Fatal Inheritance is the second outing for Rachel Rhys, the alter ego of psychological thriller writer Tammy Cohen, who previously wrote A Dangerous Crossing. While Fatal Inheritance is nowhere near as compelling as her first book, Rhys still manages to produce an intriguing plot full of varied characters. The biggest problem I had with Fatal Inheritance was the fact the mystery could have been revealed so much faster if Eve had just gone home and made her mother tell her the truth but I guess that would’ve been too easy. There are other secrets at Villa La Perle but the truth behind Eve’s inheritance can only be revealed by her mother so everything Eve goes through seems rather pointless.
The other storylines are a tad predictable but Rhys captures the feel of the Riviera so well you can almost feel the heat of the sun on your skin while reading and it contrasts remarkably with the greyness of Eve’s life with her husband. When Eve first arrives at Villa La Perle, she is worn out by the disappointment of her married life but her vitality slowly re-emerges when she is increasingly drawn into Riviera society. Eve meets a host of colourful characters, including the glamorous Gloria Hayes who is about to marry a man she doesn’t really love and who may not have her best interests at heart. Gloria’s storyline is quite predictable as it mimics many a failed marriage from Hollywood’s golden era but it is no less enjoyable because of it.
There is a serious aspect to the book though as it is set a couple of years after the Second World War and it is obvious the after-effects are still rippling throughout Europe. Eve becomes friends with the Collets, Ruth and Rupert, who are on a pilgrimage to re-live the last days of their eldest son’s life and they are probably the nicest people in the entire book. The Collets become a real source of strength for Eve and they are the only characters who show a complete lack of self-interest. Eve has already lost the love of her life to the war and believing she would never be happy again, she then married the first man who asked – the dull Clifford. The romance aspects of this novel don’t really shine though and I wish we had gotten to see Eve fall in love.