The Devil’s Daughter

Dead Dolly Creek would soon be just another western ghost town. Now it was still undergoing the slow and painful process of dying, the mines worked out, the young people gone away in search for a more promising future…but to Sharon Benedict it seemed as though the ghosts had already moved in. She came back to the village high in the mountains of New Mexico, the place where she had spent so many of her summer growing up days with May Daily, her mother’s oldest friend.

Dead Dolly Creek had been a happy place, then ….

But now something was haunting the village, terrorizing the few people still living there… and preparing to murder! Sharon found the old woman hiding behind locked doors, guarded by fierce dogs and nearly insane in her fright…an insanity that soon touched Sharon herself. For with her arrival, it seemed as though the evil in the village was about to be unleashed… for it was waiting for her!

Written by Daoma Winston. Published by Lancer Books 1971.

Sharon appeared to have everything –  an exciting job in Washington DC, a nice apartment and the love of a tall, blonde bloke with a firm chin called John. The she receives a letter from May, an old friend of the family whom Sharon used to vacation with as a child – something was seriously wrong at Dead Dolly Creek.

Personally, I cannot imagine anything ever working out fine in a town with a name like Dead Dolly Creek, but apparently this was once the place of many happy childhood memories for Sharon. When she returns to visit, after receiving the letter, Sharon is appalled by the change in the place. All the elder folk are dying of fright, while the younger ones seem to be under the spell of the mysterious stranger, Evangeline. Soon Sharon’s own life is in danger as she is drawn closer into a web of  intrigue and she is forced to stand up against the evil forces destroying the cursed town.

It has been a while since I’ve read The Devil’s Daughter, but I remember it being quite the page turner. I actually thought the decrepit, dusty ghost town worked really well as an alternative gothic setting to the usual dank and gloomy castle.  There was plenty of supernatural spookiness to keep things interesting too – including shapeshifting witches and mysterious unaccountable deaths. However, cat lovers beware – the cover may hint otherwise, but Dead Dolly Creek is certainly not the  kind of place to be  keeping cute fluffy kittens. Three out of five stars.


Wuthering Heights

The ominous and brooding shadows of the Yorkshire moors set a dramatic background for the tragedy of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. It tells of the frustrated love of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. When Catherine marries another man, Heathcliff’s passion turns to revenge – an urge to destroy the people and the raw beauty of the places the two of them had enjoyed as children.

Emily Bronte’s only novel , a masterpiece, lays bare the full misery of a man and woman who can never be free to love one another and the ultimate destruction this brings.

Written by Emily Bronte. First published 1847. This edition published 1967 by Pan Books Ltd, second printing 1968. With an introduction by Elizabeth Jennings and notes by Phyllis Bentley. Also includes  a selection of Emily Bronte’s poems. Cover art John Raynes (Thanks Tim!).

Of course this book needs no introduction. I thought I would share this lovely edition I picked up last week at the Worthing Car Boot Fair for a £1.

I love this cover – those dark, brooding purples and turbulent brushstrokes really capture the spirit of the story. Check out more of artist John Raynes’ work over at the amazing Pan Paperback Books website. Just follow the artists link at the top of the page.

I’m reading this again for what must be the hundredth time and still loving it – the poems are an extra treat too. Five out of five stars.


The Place of Sapphires

MYSTERY, ROMANCE, TERROR –

Against the eerie backdrop of a demon-haunted house on a small island off the New England coast, this new novel by the author of Hedgerow unfolds a gripping tale of supernatural suspense.

Two beautiful young sisters, seeking refuge from the pain of recent tragedy, become the helpless victims of a sinister and hateful force from the past.

Written by Florence Engel Randall, first Fawcett Crest printing March 1970.

Two sisters, Gabrielle and Elizabeth, are recovering from the dreadful aftermath of a car crash that has left both their parents dead. Elizabeth escapes completely unharmed but her sister, Gabrielle, was left hideously scarred and had to have reconstructive surgery to her face.

In order to aid her younger sister’s recovery, Elizabeth rents an isolated old house in the country, in the hope of providing both sisters with some healing peace and quiet while they try to put the pieces of their life back together.

Things do not go too well however; Gabrielle’s bedroom is haunted and she soon finds herself possessed by the revengeful spirit of Alarice. Gabrielle becomes  increasingly withdrawn, resentful of her sister and difficult to live with. As Alarice takes over more and more of  her mind, Gabrielle finds herself party to  a sinister revenge against the house’s elderly owner.

The real clue to this story is in the cover art – usually we see the protagonist running away from a dark, foreboding house lurking in the background. On this cover however, the perspective and brush strokes give the impression that the heroine and her demon-haunted house are somehow allied, bonded together in a mutual pact of evil spookiness. This sums up most of the book, as the main protagonist, Gabrielle, is a more than willing accomplice for the revengeful Alarice, and happy to act out her own repressed angers and resentments toward the people around her.

The writing is very effective and genuinely chilling – good haunted house stories need to be built up slowly to be scary and this one is crammed with atmosphere and suspense. It was also refreshing to have a less than perfect heroine who was nevertheless a character you could relate to and sympathise with. The downside for me was the sudden switch in perspective – half way through the viewpoint changes from Gabrielle to her sister, Elizabeth, which I found a bit confusing and seemed to detract from the overall creepiness built up in the first half. Four out of five stars.