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3.9 out of 5 stars
21
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 19 December 2012
I used to read all of Fyfield's novels as they came out, and now I'm not sure why I stopped. Certainly this one will have me ordering a few more.

It's a quirky plot -- the child/thief who marries up and becomes a touchstone for a variety of needy characters -- but the sheer wonder that Di feels for the paintings -- and the sea and the birds and Thomas -- wins you over to a new normal. It's a great place to live for a few days (I'm a slow reader.) If I had seen a cast list, I would have been put off by the sheer number of ill-intentioned and otherwise sketchy characters, but even though we hear more about them than about Di, her eyes are the eyes through which we come to see the people and the paintings and the natural world of England's coast.

No, not exactly a murder mystery. But a mystery and a great read.
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on 16 December 2012
If you're looking for a fast-paced, gritty crime novel, this is not for you; in fact, it's barely a crime novel at all. I can't even describe it as a psychological thriller. It's more like magical realism, where each character represents some aspect of a fable or fairy tale, behaves according to stereotype, and is to be either liked or loathed. It does not take place in the real world, but in a strange fantasy land -- not sure where, but I'd surmise on the North Essex/Suffolk coast, in a small seaside town (so behind the times that the hairdresser is apparently using products and techniques left over from the early 1960s)... yet trains apparently go into St Pancras, which is strange, as I didn't think it served any coastal areas; Liverpool Street, surely?

(One gripe, which I often have about novels in which violence occurs -- people who have been hit on the head with heavy objects, and knocked out, tend to suffer permanent brain damage, and at the very least need in-patient medical attention; they do not just dab a bit if witch hazel on it and carry on.)

In summary: yes, I enjoyed reading this for what it was; but what it was supposed to be is rather beyond me.
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on 5 December 2012
In an English seaside town an old, rich man has died, leaving everything to his very young wife. Naturally, his estranged family members are not willing to accept this.
I think the house is the main character in this book: housing a comprehensive art collection, it is large, rambling, deceptive and full of secrets and surprises - much like the cast of flawed individuals who inhabit it.
As the secrets are revealed and the characters develop, an interesting story emerges and the consequences of greed, envy and dishonesty are revealed.

I have read most of Frances Fyfield's thrillers and enjoyed them, as I did this one. I just wish she would check out the correct meaning of 'jailbait' though - it doesn't mean any female who has been in prison!
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Everything rests in this book on whether the reader can accept that Thomas Porteous is a man brave and foolish enough to fall in love with a thief, a woman, who has broken into his house and as she is serving time for the burglary he sends her books about art, educates her and on her release, marries her. She is seen in the area as a gold digger but their love is palpable, deep and abiding and the book begins with his death.

Now the onslaught of his family begins as they are outraged at being left out of his Will, and what a crew of monsters they are. In fact, the extremes of their rapacious personalities gave me pause. One has to have villains in a Frances Fyfield book, of course, and they can’t be less than extraordinary or dramatically interesting, but this crew of villains have very little in the way of common humanity and scenes of oppression, particularly those involving Thomas’s grandson Patrick, were often over the top. Greed is the abiding motive, and there are a few ambiguous characters that suggest ambivalent motives. But I couldn’t quite believe in some of FF’s characterisations. Anyone can be driven by greed, but this lot were well over the top. Unfortunately, that spoilt this book for me. Fyfield is capable of much more subtle and realistic work. Indeed, she is known for the subtlety of her plot work and characters. In this case, the book lost me and it just did not work for me.
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on 16 January 2013
Splendid story; excellently told.
Spoilt only by overuse of the f-word and the c-word. As a female author with legal training and of a certain age, this added little to plot or character development.. A more judicious use of both in future M/S F.!
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on 4 December 2016
4.5 stars

Gold Digger is a fiendishly deceptive piece of crime fiction; on the surface presenting as a simple tale of two embittered daughters descending on the house that their father adored and the collection of paintings that united him and his decades younger second wife, Di, but so much more underneath all the bickering that ensues. Thomas Porteous, teacher, son of a teacher, inventor of games and most of all, a man with a drive to educate and inspire. Although the circumstances of the fated night that sent a seventeen-year-old Di Quigley to pilfer his home were certainly inauspicious and left Di as the fall guy for a botched burglary, it is a transformed woman who returns to the old school house where objects of beauty are so revered and falls in love with a man who opens the door to a world of enchantment full of promise. Lawyer, Raymond Forrest, may decry her as having "the morals of a guttersnipe, the eyes of a magpie and an intelligence as fierce as fire", perfidious art dealer Saul Blythe might see her as a potential threat to the legacy of the amassed collection, but her love for the paintings that adorn the wall is secondary only to the genuine relationship that develops between Di and the master of the house. Her uncle and ex-Sergeant Jones who originally arrested Di might be wary of the returning threat of her brutal father, Quig, but Thomas is the first to warn Di that his death will result in a battle royal with his avaricious offspring, Gayle and Beatrice, and that she cannot afford to underestimate their greed. Poisoned by their now deceased mother who left their father and spread rumours of his "unnatural tendencies" with his children, the Porteous daughters feel entitled to a share of the wealth that came their fathers way after he was ostracised by his family.

Even before his demise, Thomas makes reference to Goneril and Regan, the avaricious daughters of King Lear, inherently dishonest and shallow while he is alive, but sniping, underhand and impassioned by his death and his supposed betrayal of them. Despite first wife, Christina, taking Grace and Beatrice from their father at ages six and nine, her continued grasping clutches have left them both with a sense of entitlement that is galling in the extreme. No one is aware of his daughter's potential for malice more than Thomas and he knows that Di may not survive alone, hence his blueprint, supported by art dealer, Saul: to hoist the greedy sisters on their own petard. Fuelled by Saul into believing that their father and Di hid the existence of the most valuable paintings, all the while blind to the fact that it is the collection in its entirety that holds the value, a plan is put in motion to steal the priceless paintings from under Di's nose, fittingly on the tenth anniversary of her original crime.

Frances Fyfield controls this tale from the off by creating by bringing to life some of the most devious and well-realised characters, all of whom are multi-faceted and with enough nuances to make you question their motives continually. One of the aspects I found fascinating was my response to the varied cast that surrounded the bereaved Diana, and I suspect it speaks volumes that the trio that I trusted the most would, to an impartial observer on the outside, have been most suspicious, specifically Di, Jones and teenage thief, Peg. Frances Fyfield measures her words, wasting none and drawing to life an unholy alliance between a misunderstood widow, the curious ensemble of characters who trample her grief and the motley crew of allies who man the fort. I particularly liked how loose the motives of Raymond Forrest and Saul Blythe remained throughout as they flit back and forth between Di and the snubbed Gayle, Edward and Beatrice, always loathe to place my faith in two men of questionable motives. A key relationship which I found fascinating was the curious triangle of Jones and his affection for hairdresser Monica, all the while acknowledging that she was in the thrall of the treacherous Quig, which added to the undercurrent of tension that flowed through this novel.

The story is firmly set against the backdrop of a faded seaside town, an area that both Thomas and Diana love with a fervour. Often Fyfield sets a scene and describes what the reader bears witness to in the form of an abstract befitting a treasured artwork. This was a novel I discovered in a charity book sale and devoured. Intensely observed and with a deceptive level of depth making this a profound read, Frances Fyfield is an author I want to discover more of and with a back catalogue running into double figures, I relish doing so. Indeed, there are two further novels featuring the splendid character of Diana Porteous. Satisfying in the upmost, Fyfield avoids any element of farce for ever entering proceedings. Di defends the indefensible, naively wanting to see the best in people and always willing to offer a second chance, despite an upbringing at the hands of her callous father.

Bewitching until the closing pages, perhaps for the fact that even after the story unravels, I was still filled with questions and unsure about the motives of some players. For a crime novel without significant bloodshed, the tension lasts and mystery of that first night holds court throughout this novel. Frances Fyfield delivers a splendid finish, with the revelation of one secret and a resolution to another. Gold Digger is wonderfully intelligent crime fiction, relying on characters and actions to speak louder than any violence could possibly do.

Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)
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I've been reading Frances Fyfield's books for years now and I believe she's up there with Ruth Rendell and P D James as the trio of top British crime writers. In Gold Digger we return to the world of her earlier novel Undercurrents, surely based on where she lives in Deal, a small town on the Kent Coast.

Fyfield takes a great deal of care in developing her characters. Thomas Porteous, an elderly art collector, takes a shine to Di Quigley, a girl from a troubled family who tried to burgle him when she was 17. Thomas sent her art books while she was in prison and when she came out, they got together and despite a huge age difference they develped a deep affinity leading to an unlikely marriage. The people in the town suspect that Di is just a gold-digger, but there is far more to her than that and her devotion to Thomas is based on how he has taught her to develop her love for fine art.

Fyfield describes Thomas and Di's eccentric life together in the rambling old house which Thomas inherited years ago, stuffed full of paintings old and new. The devoted couple share a love for paintings and delight in rescuing even obscure works which the world seems to have passed by. But Thomas is now very old and has two grasping daughters who see Di as a threat to the inheritance on which they have been banking for years. When Thomas dies, the two daughters turn out to be a venomous pair who together with one of their husbands form an unholy trinity, determined to play as dirty as they can to retrieve what they have lost in their father's will.

The pleasure in this book lies in the atmosphere Fyfield creates in this small coastal town. It is almost a world of its own, a bubble of eccentricity, which the two daughters seem determine to prick in order to get their way. But Di also has her sinister side and the reader rapidly discovers that there is going to be a titanic battle of wills with no holds barred in the conduct of the engagement.

There are many twists and turns along the way and I only put this book down when I had to, returning to it with a sense of keen anticipation to see what happened next. As with all good books, the characters live on in the mind after you've finished it. I really enjoyed it and have no hesitation in awarding it five stars.
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on 19 November 2013
I enjoyed the prospect of what this book promised: dark old house, remote location by the sea, a mystery.

I can only say it didn't adequately portray much of the above for me. I didn't see the point to some of the characters and although parts appeared clever they were confusing plot devices that didn't make any sense. All the palaver about certain "incidents" amounted to nothing, while important incidents weren't explained at all. In particular one scene at the beginning was never revisited.

As one other reviewer has noted it was neither psychological thriller nor crime novel. The author seemed to be attempting to introduce a surreal set piece into an otherwise pedestrian tale of family squabbling. The 3 stars are primarily for the author's ability to write. The "story" however left a lot to be desired.
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on 24 March 2013
I have loved Frances Fyfield's books for many years, and her earlier book, "The Playroom" is, in my opinion, superb and should be required reading for anyone working in the social services or child protection fields. "Gold Digger" has the hallmarks of this fine writer: suspense, good believably flawed characters, an understanding of the circumsances which affect a person's actions, and an interesting story. Compassion is one of her trademarks and here it is shown in spades! She is far better thansome lother, more vaunted, writers.
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on 27 May 2016
FF is never bad & usually great, but this did not have the heft of earlier books, particularly the helen west series. nice mystery but slow to blossom & finale not particularly convincing. loose ends. a fair to middling read, literate as always.
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