Candace

A DEAD MAN’S EVIL SPIRIT HELD HER PRISONER IN A HOUSE OF MENACE.

When George Haight was alive, Candace Loring disliked and mistrusted him. When he dies, he leaves her his house. She plans to refuse the legacy, but as the executor of the estate swings the key slowly before her eyes, she finds herself hypnotically agreeing to look at it before making a decision.

As she steps inside, she recognizes the house from the nightmares that have haunted her sleep. But she can’t leave. George’s evil spirit holds her there, controlling her, bringing her closer to death night by night.

Pitted against his satanic strength is the young doctor who loves Candace. But is the power of his love strong enough to save her life?

Paperback Library edition. First printing August 1970.

Alice Brennan sounds like a gas. Born in St Louis in 1913 she worked as a hat-check girl, dancer and secretary before turning her hand to writing gothics in her mid-fifties. From the titles of her published novels it seems her books lean heavily toward the witchy / satanic side of things and Candace is no exception.

Candace Loring is a perfectly happy and normal 23 year old. Then she meets George Haight, a ‘particularly unimpressive’ man obsessed with spiritualism and the occult, who has ‘queer blazing eyes’. Candace dates him casually for a while but soon dumps him, not least because all his chit chat about the spirit world bores her. To spare his feelings she pretends she is marrying someone else and randomly picks the name of a nice, quiet young man called Roger who works in the same office she does.

Roger mysteriously dies of carbon monoxide poisoning and George Haight just as mysteriously slips out of Candace’s life.  But not for long. Before the year is up he pops up out of nowhere in the local car park, telling Candace he has been trying to contact her via mental telepathy.

Candace is appalled. And confused – as George Haight goes on to explain he is going to die any day now and he is bequeathing Candace his house. Then he mysteriously disappears again.

A few days and some weird dreams later, Candace receives a letter from a George’s lawyer. George is dead and she has become the new owner of a big old house in Lewisville. Of course, Candace has absolutely no intention of accepting this strange inheritance but the lawyer persuades her to at least take a look.

When she visits the house a strange voice invades her mind, enticing her into giving up her job so she can move in and live with George’s spirit. Candace is powerless to resist but the longer she stays in the house, the more it becomes obvious that something or someone is exerting a powerful hold over her, corrupting her personality and draining her of energy. Friends and family are worried but anyone getting too close to Candace soon ends up ill, dead or stalked by a big black dog. And as Candace falls deeper and deeper under this mysterious spell, it is left to the handsome young Doctor Clemmins to step in and save the day….

This book was ok for a bit of light reading but not much more. I loved the lead character Candace – she was so flirtatious yet so witheringly offhand and dismissive toward the infatuated George it was hilarious. And I couldn’t help warming to her as she floated and flittered around the story, completely oblivious to the threat she was under.

Fourth printing September 1973. Cover photo by Hank Dunning.

Overall though, Candace lacked the creeping aura of menace necessary for this kind of subject to work properly, with the writing almost as frothy as the heroine. And for all the promising blurb, nothing very much happened. Once she was safely ensconced within the creepy dead guy’s house, Candace spent about three quarters of the book making coffee, feeling grumpy, building log fires and falling asleep – with not much more than the ocasional narky phonecall from her mother to add to the excitement. True, there were a few spooky dream sequences, during which the spirit of our dearly-departed George made fresh attempts to woo his captive Candace. But his powers of seduction were even less successful in the afterlife as, apart from a lingering headache and vague feeling of nausea, they left little impression on her or the reader.

I kept turning the pages, waiting for the story to kick in – for a life and death struggle with the forces of evil, for a sinister seance at midnight or a last minute exorcism. At the very least there could have been a blind gypsy woman fortelling bad things about to happen. But no. Just pages and pages of Candace drinking coffee, feeling grumpy, building log fires and falling asleep...zzzzzzz….

Two out of five stars – one for each version of this book I have. I don’t have many gothics with photo covers but I really like this one.

To Seek Where Shadows Are

Posed for Death….

Laurie’s fiancé hated the apartment she’d chosen for them to live in when they got married. Steve couldn’t be specific, but something about the old Victorian building really bothered him.

But Laurie loved their future home. As she poked through the old rooms that had once served as an artist’s studio, she discovered a portrait of a lovely but obviously unhappy young girl that had been painted at the end of the last century. The pretty young model fascinated Laurie and she longed to know the reason for the sad expression on the girl’s face. Her curiosity would soon be satisfied – but at the risk of her engagement and, ultimately, her life!

Written by Miriam Benedict. First Avon printing December 1973.

A classic haunted house mystery. Our heroine, Laurie the Librarian, finds herself the new tenant of a old but ‘heaven sent’ apartment in an eerie Victorian house located in the bohemian part of town.

Of course Laurie falls in love with the apartment and can’t wait to start settling in to wedded bliss in her first new home with husband-to-be Steve.

Unfortunately Steve hates the place, won’t set foot in it actually, so for most of the story Laurie is left to renovate and redecorate on her ownsome, assisted by the occasional morale boosting bottle of wine and Chinese take away provided by her neighbour  and best friend, Alex the Artist,  who lives downstairs.

Things soon take a gothic turn for the worse when Laurie  becomes haunted by strange dreams and mysterious goings on that have a story of their own to tell – a tale about a beautiful artist’s model driven to despair by guilt and the  murderous attentions of  the artist’s jilted, jealous fiancée .

Isolated and vulnerable, driven to exhaustion by all her redecorating and stressed by the move, Laurie becomes more and more obsessed and endangered by these nefarious spirits. Bit by bit – and with a lot of help from her friends – she is able to unravel the mystery surrounding the secrets of this house, hopefully laying to rest the unhappy ghosts for good.

This was a fair to middling read in the gothic stakes. There were plenty of spooky happenings, including a sleepwalking, spirit possessed boyfriend with a penchant for past life regression, and a nice background story involving a doomed love affair  /  tragic love triangle from the past.

However, the overall execution of the story was a little inconsistent – this was yet another book that starts out good but gets spoiled by a rushed ending where the characters will say and do anything just to tie up the loose ends in time. As a result, some of the characterisation just did not seem too credible to me and so I found myself losing interest about two thirds of the way through.

On the plus side, there are some well written, genuinely gothicky moments and the cover art is especially beautiful. I love that spooky looking tree poking out from behind the curtain. Three out of five stars.