Tonight, with the room almost completely dark, the chairs and love seats and footstools had lost their outlines and seemed to have become crouching shadows.
More fancies – I am letting myself become obsessed with them, Elizabeth thought, allowing my imagination to run away with me. Still, she was glad to reach her small bedroom and lock the door behind her.
Once in bed, she fell asleep almost immediately, deeply and dreamlessly.
What awakened her she did not know. Sounds became magnified. The creaking of an old board somewhere outside her bedroom door was like a groan in the stillness. The muttering of the ocean seemed to rise to a roar. A fog horn far out on the water sang its melancholy song.
And through those other sounds came another, so unlikely that she pulled herself up on her pillow and sat hugging her knees, her ears straining and her eyes staring sightlessly into the darkness.
Surely there could not be a baby crying here in Gray House!
An original Pinnacle Books edition. First printing March 1972.
Our heroine, the lovely Elizabeth Lyman, is a true blue-blooded American, whose ancestors were prominent in the days before the Revolutionary War. We meet her as she is on her way to her childhood home, Gray House, situated in a small town just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. The house once belonged to her forefather the legendary John Hackett Gray, a hero of the American Civil war. These days, Gray House is open to the public over the weekends, presided over by its two elderly custodians, Elizabeth’s Aunts, Lydia and Dorothy.
Elizabeth doesn’t have too many fond memories growing up in the company of these ‘stern, sour faced’ women and so her unexpected visit is not a social one. Clearing out the belongings of her recently deceased parents, she has recently come into possession of an old steel box. Inside this box are some letters, written by the late, great John Hackett himself, as well as a leather bound journal belonging to his wife. Convinced her Aunts will be ecstatic at her find and will want to preserve these treasures for future generations, Elizabeth has decided to deliver the documents over to them herself.
Alas, her welcome is worse than even she could of imagined. Her Aunts make it plain they are far from happy with Elizabeth’s sudden arrival, their mood improving not a whit when they receive the diary and papers.
By now Elizabeth is too tired to care. Exhausted by the long journey she just plans to say her hello and goodbyes before beating a hasty retreat back to her apartment and her job as a secretary in the Town Hall. But fate conspires against her as sickness and a broken down car force her into accepting her Aunt’s begrudging hospitality.
Now most gothic heroines end up in perilous situations as a direct result of having too much curiosity – with Elizabeth Lyman however, the opposite is true. For if she had only read through the old diary before handing it over (and let’s face it, who can ever resist reading someone else’s secret thoughts given half a chance?) she could have saved herself a whole heap of trouble. As it happens, the few days she spends at Gray House with her vinegar-veined Aunties prove not only unpleasant but potentially lethal. Fortunately for Elizabeth, there is a handsome young author around to lend her a hand or two, but how far can she really trust him…?
I’ve reviewed a few Miriam Lynch titles on this blog, and enjoyed them all. One of them, The Deadly Rose, shares a similar ‘psychotic little old lady running wild in a rambling death-trap of a house’ plot to this novel and Miriam Lynch certainly knows how to work the spooky spinster theme very convincingly.
What I really like about her writing is the way she can keep a story moving – avoiding bogging the reader down in narrative – while still finding the time to lend a gothic hand to the proceedings. All the books of hers I’ve read contain some very effective scene setting, with wonderful terror-laden descriptions of her heroines’ state of mind as they find themselves embroiled ever deeper in danger.
The cover art for this one is rather lovely too. I found a slightly more modern version (pictured above) at a Miriam Lynch book covers page here: http://book-covers.lucywho.com/miriam-lynch-book-covers-t603914.html.
I’m giving Where Shadows Lie four out of five stars, with extra gothic points for the grisly discovery of two skeletons found hidden in the cellar, entwined in each other’s bones.