The Third Spectre

WELCOME TO TERROR…

The newlyweds had come home to the Marchand mansion. But the silent old manor house quivered with hidden terrors.

Their life together had just begun, yet, suddenly, it faced a horrible – and abrupt – ending. For the beautiful bride had just received an invitation to die. And the murderer was near… very near…

Written by Dan Ross. First printing by Macfadden-Bartell April 1969, second printing June 1971.

Nancy Marchand is newly wedded to Ralph, a hot shot criminal defence lawyer and proud owner of a large ancestral mansion situated on the shore of the idyllic Green Ridge Lake in Vermont.

Sounds to good to be true? Of course it is! For one thing, Nancy’s husband takes his work far too seriously, giving the phrase ‘bringing your work home with you’ a whole new meaning when he brings one of his clients – the beautiful blonde and accused poisoner Jean Gilbert – home to live with them.

Ralph insists his motives are entirely professional but Nancy has her doubts, especially when Jean confesses to her she actually quite fancies him. And then Nancy starts getting ill – someone is trying to poison her…..

I quite enjoyed this book as a bit of a thriller but I did not find it very gothic. There was a lot of dialogue but not much in the way of atmosphere. The  spooky bits were very few and far between and centred around the appearance of a ghostly spectre of a long dead ancestor supposedly acting as a portent of bad things to come – but ultimately I was left with the impression it was merely  a device tacked on to the story to add a supernatural dimension. I do however love the dreamy, almost psychedelic, cover art. Three out of five stars.


 

Knight’s Keep

knightskeepOrphaned Janet Bewleigh had become an heiress overnight – the unexpected reward for an act of kindness – and now the once locked doors of her beloved Knight’s Keep were open to her.

But there was an aura of evil at the stately manor house which weighed on her like an invisible shroud. She wondered about Lord Ashford, her enigmatic, strangely attractive host, and about the sad, dead girl whose ghost still hovered over the Keep.

And then Janet read the ancient family motto, and knew that the final act was yet to be played…….

Written by Rona Randall and first published in Great Britain 1967. Published by Sphere Books 1973.

Set in Victorian England and narrated in the first person this is the story of one young lady’s quest to seek sanctuary by returning to the home of her recently deceased parents,  only to find madness and murderous intentions awaiting  her.

Our heroine, Janet Bewleigh, enjoyed a poor but happy childhood, helping out in her parents vicarage in Covent Garden, giving out soup and bread to the poor. Then a sudden skating accident leaves her tragically orphaned and she is left to carry on the work of her parents alone. One of her charges, the down and out Uncle Silas, dies in yet another mysterious accident soon after, and Janet becomes an unexpected heiress to a large fortune. Not only that, but he really was her uncle and she soon finds herself visiting the large Elizabethan mansion where her mother had grown up – Knights Keep.

keepsake

As you’d guess from the cover art things don’t start off so well for our Janet, with sinister ladies in waiting, a marriage to a sex obsessed sadist and a poisoned pet puppy to deal with for starters – but after a few interesting adventures and plot twists it all works out for the best. I really enjoyed this book, it’s full of atmosphere and attention to detail with some genuinely creepy bits –  I particularly liked the relationship between Lord Ashford and his rather enigmatic stepmother, the weird and wonderful femme fatale Miranda.

The blurb on the inside cover informs us Rona Randall is established as one of the best writers of Gothic Romance. Furthermore, Knight’s Keep was nominated for a major award of the Romantic Novelists Association. At the time of print the author was living in Sussex and it’s great to read something so good by a local author – I’ll definitely be looking out for more of her stuff. Four out of five stars.