Madam, Will You Talk?

Madam, Will You Talk?

by Mary Stewart

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The original queen of the page-turner Mary Stewart leads her readers on a thrilling journey through a dangerous and deadly Provence in this tale perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and Barbara Pym.

'Mary Stewart is magic' New York Times

'One of the great British storytellers of the 20th century' Independent

'The terrible thirsty heat of the Provençal summer, the noise of the cicadas, the dust of the country buses . . . an excellent tale of mystery' The Times

It sounds idyllic: a leisurely drive through the sun-drenched landscape of Provence. But Charity's dream holiday turns into a nightmare when she becomes embroiled in a sinister plot to kidnap a young boy. She soon finds herself in a deadly pursuit and must uncover who to trust . . . and who to fall for.

Whenever I look back now on the strange and terrifying events of that holiday in Southern France, I remember the minutes I spent gazing at the golden arches of the Roman aqueduct over the Gardon... the last brief lull before the thunder.

'A comfortable chair and a Mary Stewart: total heaven. I'd rather read her than most other authors.' Harriet Evans

'She built the bridge between classic literature and modern popular fiction. She did it first and she did it best.' Herald

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781444711097
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd.
Publication date: 05/26/2011
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 15,497
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Mary Stewart was one of the 20th century's bestselling and best-loved novelists. She was born in Sunderland, County Durham in 1916, but lived for most of her life in Scotland, a source of much inspiration for her writing. Her first novel, Madam, Will You Talk? was published in 1955 and marked the beginning of a long and acclaimed writing career. In 1971 she was awarded the International PEN Association's Frederick Niven Prize for The Crystal Cave, and in 1974 the Scottish Arts Council Award for one of her children's books, Ludo and the Star Horse. She was married to the Scottish geologist Frederick Stewart, and died in 2014.

Read an Excerpt

Madam, Will You Talk?

Chapter One

Enter four or five players.

The whole affair began so very quietly. When I wrote, that summer, and asked my friend Louise if she would come with me on a car trip to Provence, I had no idea that I might be issuing an invitation to danger. And when we arrived one afternoon, after a hot but leisurely journey, at the enchanting little walled city of Avignon, we felt in that mood of pleasant weariness mingled with anticipation which marks, I believe, the beginning of every normal holiday.

No cloud in the sky; no sombre shadow on the machicolated walls; no piercing glance from an enigmatic stranger as we drove in at the Porte de la République and up the sundappled Cours Jean-Jaurès. And certainly no involuntary shiver of apprehension as we drew up at last in front of the Hôtel Tistet-Védène, where we had booked rooms for the greater part of our stay.

I even sang to myself as I put the car away, and when I found they had given me a room with a balcony overlooking the shaded courtyard, I was pleased.

And when, later on, the cat jumped on to my balcony, there was still nothing to indicate that this was the beginning of the whole strange, uneasy, tangled business. Or rather, not the beginning, but my own cue, the point where I came in. And though the part I was to play in the tragedy was to break and reform the pattern of my whole life, yet it was a very minor part, little more than a walk-on in the last act. For most of the play had been played already; there had been love and lust and revenge and fear and murder—all the blood-tragedy bric-à-brac except the Ghost -- and now the killer, with blood enough on his hands, was waiting in the wings for the lights to go up again, on the last kill that would bring the final curtain down.

How was I to know, that lovely quiet afternoon, that most of the actors in the tragedy were at that moment assembled in this neat, unpretentious little Provençal hotel? All but one, that is, and he, with murder in his mind, was not so very far away, moving, under that blazing southern sun, in the dark circle of his own personal hell. A circle that narrowed, gradually, upon the Hôtel Tistet-Védène, Avignon.

But I did not know, so I unpacked my things slowly and carefully, while, on my bed, Louise lay and smoked and talked about the mosquitoes.

"And now -- a fortnight," she said dreamily. "A whole fortnight. And nothing to do but drink, and sit in the sun."

"No eating? Or are you on a cure?"

"Oh, that. One's almost forgotten how. But they tell me that in France the cattle still grow steaks ... I wonder how I shall stand up to a beefsteak?"

"You have to do these things gradually." I opened one of the slatted shutters, closed against the late afternoon sun. "Probably the waiter will just introduce you at first, like Alice -- Louise, biftek; biftek, Louise. Then you both bow, and the steak is ushered out."

"And of course, in France, no pudding to follow." Louise sighed. "Well, we'll have to make do. Aren't you letting the mosquitoes in, opening that shutter?"

"It's too early. And I can't see to hang these things away. Do you mind either smoking that cigarette or putting it out? It smells."

"Sorry." She picked it up again from the ashtray. "I'm too lazy even to smoke. I warn you, you know, I'm not going sight-seeing. I couldn't care less if Julius Caesar used to fling his auxiliaries round the town, and throw moles across the harbour mouth. If you want to go and gasp at Roman remains you'll have to go alone. I shall sit under a tree, with a book, as near to the hotel as possible."

I laughed, and began putting out my creams and sunburn lotions on what the Hôtel Tistet-Védène fondly imagined to be a dressing-table.

"Of course I don't expect you to come. You'll do as you like. But I believe the Pont du Gard -- "

"My dear, I've seen the Holborn Viaduct. Life can hold no more ... "

Louise stubbed out her cigarette carefully, and then folded her hands behind her head. She is tall and fair and plump, with long legs, a pleasant voice, and beautiful hands. She is an artist, has no temperament to speak of, and is unutterably and incurably lazy. When accused of this, she merely says that she is seeing life steadily and seeing it whole, and this takes time. You can neither ruffle nor surprise Louise; you can certainly never quarrel with her. If trouble should ever arise, Louise is simply not there; she fades like the Cheshire Cat, and comes back serenely when it is all over. She is, too, as calmly independent as a cat, without any of its curiosity. And though she looks the kind of large lazy fair girl who is untidy -- the sort who stubs out her cigarettes in the face-cream and never brushes the hairs off her coat -- she is always beautifully groomed, and her movements are delicate and precise. Again, like a cat. I get on well with cats. As you will find, I have a lot in common with them, and with the Elephant's Child.

"In any case," said Louise, "I've had quite enough of ruins and remains, in the Gilbertian sense, to last me for a lifetime. I live among them."

I knew what she meant. Before my marriage to Johnny Selborne, I, too, had taught at the Alice Drupe Private School for Girls. Beyond the fact that it is in the West Midlands ...

Madam, Will You Talk?. Copyright © by Mary Stewart. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Sandra Brown

“Don’t wait for a rainy day to curl up with a book by Mary Stewart.”

Elizabeth Lowell

“Nobody does it better.”

Barbara Michaels

“I’ve always loved Mary Stewart’s wonderful novels of suspense, romance and exotic adventure.”

Customer Reviews

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Madam, Will You Talk? 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've loved this book for at least 40 years. Stewart's heroines were spunky and independent long before that became popular. It's a little slow to start for modern tastes, but once it gets rolling, there's no stopping the action. I've often thought it would make a good mini-series; the car chase sequences alone would be a hit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was delighted to find this wonderful old favorite had been revived and sincerely hope you'll bring back more, and using the same publisher. So often when classics like this one are translated to e-book the copy editing is atrocious, but not so with this terrific edition.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is still one of my favorite romance books. Mary Stewart writes better than most current authors. Please make her other books available!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a book that has it all: conflict, romance, thrills, and all sorts of twists and turns along the way. basically a book that can suck you in and keep you though your eyes may burn from lack of blinking.
Anonymous 29 days ago
totally unexpected experience...loved every page...couldn't turn them quickly enough!
Figgles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another enjoyable mystery/romance for grown-ups. Some nice twists in what otherwise could be cliched - the heroine becomes involved in the mystery because of her sympathy for an unhappy young boy, her late husbands driving skills stand her in good stead... A great read that fills you with the desire to visit the south of France.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Charity Selborne is on vacation in the south of France with a friend, when by chance she meets David Shelley, an English boy traveling with his stepmother. It turns out that the boy¿s father, Richard Byron, is a murderer¿and he¿s followed David to France. Charity immediately becomes embroiled in the lives of David and Richard, not knowing who she can trust.Another really great suspense novel from Mary Stewart. One thing she¿s really good at is description¿you can almost hear the cicadas chirping (well, it was quite literal in my case¿I had my window open and the cicadas were working overtime!). Mary Stewart is also known for her exotic locations, and this one definitely didn¿t disappoint. The car chase scene is especially well done; the tension is palpable, even as we find out what really happened all those years ago. Mary Stewart¿s books aren¿t by any stretch of the imagination, literature as such (even the cover looks a little bit romance-y), but they¿re definitely entertaining, and the perfect end-of-summer read.
cameling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A holiday in Avignon turns out to be less than relaxing for Charity Selbourne when she finds herself befriending an unhappy little boy whose father allegedly killed his best friend.A sightseeing visit unexpectedly bring her in contact with the boy's father and she finds herself on a race to keep him away from the frightened boy. She leads him on a wild goose chase, but can she keep the boy safe from him. Or perhaps is everything not as they seem? Who is the stepmother meeting in the dark and what nefarious plans are they hatching? What secrets does the boy hold that he's afraid to share? And why is his father following her?A wonderful tale of suspense, where nothing is as it seems. The only bit I found rather silly and unnecessary to the tale was the sudden romance for Charity. It seemed rather far-fetched because of the situation she was in. But other than that, it was an enjoyable mystery.