Frenchwoman Helene Giroux arrives unannounced in St. Homais, a small town on the French shore of Nova Scotia, sometime in the 1930s. She seems to be running from a dark secret in her past...which is slowly revealed through a series of flashbacks.
Helene is a complicated character; she grew up in France, the daughter of a successful piano maker, and becomes an accomplished piano maker, factory owner, and pianist herself.
But of course, 1914 is coming, and during the war Helene loses everything. Acquaintance Nathan Homewood, an American who had handled North American sales of their pianos, offers to sell all the fine wood laid away in her barn before it is destroyed -- and does so, while telling her that it was lost at sea. When she discovers his theft years later, she forces him to pay her back the thousands he had stolen. But due to circumstances, she also agrees to join forces with him in his latest project, antiquities dealing.
The book weaves back and forth, revealing more of Helene's past and her long relationship with Nathan. When the story opens, however, she is settling into her new small town life as an enigmatic stranger...until the RCMP places her under house arrest, to be retried for the murder of Nathan Homewood in 1929.
The small town setting seems to be the one still point in Helene's life, which allows the narrative to focus on the action in her past. This means the book starts out a bit slowly, until her history begins to be shared. Still, the story is enough to keep you turning pages, waiting to find out just what her deep dark secret is. And there is enough in it to make you consider rights and wrongs and consequences.
Helene is both a mysterious and appealing heroine. Her life is eventful, even if a little implausible at times. But this is an engaging story told in a style somewhere between literary novel and adventure yarn. Enjoy it for the surprises, and for the straightforward storytelling.