THE SCENT OF DEATH WAS IN THE AIR AT GLOOMY, MENACING NORTHCOURT – THE FRAGRANCE WAS WHITE VIOLETS!
When young Helen Stone became secretary to the mistress of Northcourt, she quickly learned that her predecessor had died under the most mysterious of circumstances.
The inhabitants of the huge, forbidding mansion were a strange, hostile lot, desperately trying to keep under cover a dread secret about Northcourt’s shadowy past. The only one she was drawn to was Bob Coles a handsome though bitter man.
One day Helen found herself high above the sea, in a tunnel filled with fog and the haunting scent of white violets. She stumbled against Bob Coles and her own nightmare at Northcourt began….
Written by Edward Crandall. Originally published 1953. Fourth paperback printing May 1969.
The blurb on the cover tells it all really – the young Ms Stone is employed as a secretary for Mrs Porter and finds herself trapped in a huge gloomy mansion, peopled by a variety of odd characters who are all bitter and twisted and after their share of the Old Dear’s inheritance.
Piece by piece Helen learns the story behind the death of her unfortunate predecessor and tensions build to bursting as our hapless heroine stumbles upon mutilated photographs, mysterious hats and strangers lurking in her bedroom.
I was attracted to this book by the underground tunnels, as I live in a seaside town rumoured to be riddled with the same such smuggler’s hidey holes. I also thought the writing was very good, with some great descriptions of windswept cliffs and doom ridden rooms.
My only criticism would be I thought the action was a little too slow, nothing much seemed to be happening for the first part of the book apart from detailed conversations involving the history of the characters and their relationships to each other and I would have preferred a little more spooky and a little less background.
Nevertheless, once things get going, the writing is very effective with some genuinely scary scenes. There is plenty to please in the romance department too – with a more than eligible love interest provided by the sexy but grouchy gardener Bob. Four out of five stars.
I also like the distinctive cover; there is a signature along the right side of the dress but I can’t quite make out the name. The closest I can guess it to be is Jerome Podwil but I can’t be sure.