The Luck of the Vails is fairly slow, taking its time to build up an atmosphere to set the characters against. Harry Vail is the heir to his family, and he’s just found the most miraculous treasure: a cup called the Luck of the Vails, originally owned by a rather wicked ancestor and said to give the owner luck — whilst putting them in peril of fire, frost and rain. A rather lonely person before, he finds a close friend in his elderly uncle, and begins to go around in society and make friends there as well.
There’s just one slight hitch: an old story about his uncle and the accidental death of a man who happened to be in debt to him. It lies like a shadow across things, colouring Harry’s meeting with a young woman who happens to be the dead man’s daughter…
I was surprised that at every turn the author ducked the obvious next piece of events. Instead of scorning Harry and his uncle, the young woman forgives it all, despite her mother’s whispers of murder — indeed, instead of the characters dodging around it, trying to avoid the revelation, they get it right out in the open. Later, instead of doubting Harry for long, the young woman wrestles with her conscience about it and realises what a stupid mix-up has been made. It’s rather refreshing.
I can’t say too much about the characters or where the plot tends toward without giving it away. I did find myself very curious in the first third or so as to where things would go wrong, but once they did, they did so very obviously. The first third might lull you a little, but the clues are pretty obvious after that, and it’s just a matter of how things come to pass. I did think the somewhat ambiguous characters were fascinating; there’s genuine affection between a would-be murderer and the victim, and a rather ambivalent character who sounds like a villain but becomes an ally.
It wraps up much as expected, and there’s nothing really stunning about it, but I did find it interesting, and appreciated the avoidance of certain tropes.