The Torrington family – Charlotte, her grown-up children Emerald and Clovis, small daughter Smudge, and one-armed second husband Edward Swift – live in a grand, crumbling country residence which they can't afford to keep up.
One stormy night – the night of Emerald's 20th birthday party – there is a train crash nearby; the railway billets a group of survivors on them. The hordes (annoyingly spelt "hoards" throughout) of strangers, oddly hard to count, are faceless, nameless hungry strangers – except for a gentleman in a cherry-red waistcoat who knows Charlotte from way back and has a sinister agenda of his own .... This is a mixture of a comedy of manners and a ghost story, with hints of Saki, Nancy Mitford, and Iris Murdoch. A pleasantly eerie read, with a sweet ending.
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