“Heartbeats…. If she ever married she would marry someone like Steve Martin, the young writer she had bumped into at the airport – dark, good-looking, with smiling eyes and a sense of humour. She would have good cause to cherish his name.
Ann Preston arrived at Chateau Duval – a house that had known only tears and heartbreak – a house that had died. Almost immediately she was plunged into a nightmare world of dark secrets.
Pierre Duval, the ex-trapeze artist…Juliette, his wife, who keeps a snake for a pet… Yvette, the beautiful daughter, in love with Steve and determined to get her own way….the pungent smell of lilies of the valley and dead leaves coupled with shrill maniacal laughter….
Who is the mysterious occupant of the Chateau’s ruined left wing?”
Written by Julie Wellsley and published 1972 by Five Star paperback.
Our heroine, Ann Preston, has accepted a live-in job as a secretary with the sinister Duval family in France and has ended up with a little more than a delusional boss and a pile of paperwork to deal with. Someone or something is trying to kill her and, though a range of suspects present themselves early on, the who’s and why’s kept me guessing till (nearly) the end.
This is a nicely paced novel with an interesting mix of characters – I particularly liked the embittered and twisted old matriarch, Juliette, who spent most her time hobbling away in the shadows, crooning sweet nothings to her beloved pet python. Unfortunately there are no supernatural elements but there are still plenty of gothic touches to add atmosphere – including derangement, disfigurement, a crumbly big house and the odd murder or two. Of course it all ends happy ever after but the romance is kept low key and out of the way of the mystery.
The cover art is atypical to most from this genre, having neither the gloomy, doomy colour scheme nor the scary house in the background, but is beautifully done and alluring nonetheless. If you look closely you can see a backward signature under her right arm which looks like the name ‘Miller’.