‘What do you mean – five o’clock?’ I said.
I glanced at the window. It was broad daylight, and I could hear the sound of traffic outside.
‘It is five o’clock in the evening,’ said the chauffeur. ‘Monsieur le Comte has slept very soundly all the day. I have been waiting here since eleven o’clock this morning.’
His words held no reproach: they were merely a statement of fact. I put my hand to my head, which ached abominably. I could feel a swelling on the side of it which was agony to touch, but my head was not aching for this reason only. I thought of the drinks of the night before, and that last tooth-glass of cognac. Perhaps it was not the last? I did not remember.
‘I fell,’ I told the chauffeur, ‘and I think I must have been drugged as well.’
‘Very possibly,’ he said. ‘These things will happen.’
I had read the blurb of The Scapegoat many times but it never struck me as a story that might grab my interest. The setting in the post-war French countryside just did not appeal to me. I mean, what could ever be that gripping in the post-war French countryside? And surely, the premise of a mistaken identity has been done to death since The Man in the Iron Mask, too?
When a friend returned the book to another friend, I somehow ended up with it. Probably, because I started reading a few pages in the cafe where we met and I could not put it down.
And that is what happened - for the rest of the book I was hooked.
Du Maurier does what she does best in this book: she sets the scene, creates oodles of atmosphere and slowly, teasingly reveals the mysteries that lie behind the characters and their woes.
The only regret I have is that I read the ending. It was such an anti-climax. Such a let down. So disappointing.