The Ledge

Young Catherine Beauchamp had defied her father and ignored all warnings when she took the job at High View. There were whispers about the brilliant ex-senator who lived at the remote mountain estate; ugly rumors about his strange behaviour and the mysterious death of his first wife. But Catherine did not want to hear them. She too had secrets in her past.

Yet from the moment she entered the decaying mansion she was filled with foreboding. With each passing day the ledge from which the senator’s wife had plunged grew more ominous. And sudenly she realized she had trespassed on a nightmare…

… JOURNEY TO TERROR.

Written by Gertrude Schweitzer. First Dell printing January 1973.

I picked this one up at a local used bookshop a couple of weeks ago and though it’s a bit tattered and torn, I just love the cover. There might not be an obligatory light shining from the mansion’s top window, but the colours are gorgeous and the title font has a real seventies look to it.

The Ledge opens with our heroine, the bereaved and vulnerable Catherine Beauchamp, winding her way to a new job as secretary for ex-senator Amos Kent. Early on we learn Catherine has recently recovered from a serious mental breakdown; this job is the start of her new life and an important step towards regaining her sense of self worth and confidence.  

But from the offset the omens aren’t good. Nearing Garretston, the town where the senator lives,  she runs over a squirrel and is forced to pull over, shaking like a leaf, waiting until the ‘old horror loosened its claws.’ And the welcome when she finally arrives at her new home isn’t much better – Amos Kent is a guarded, embittered man suspected of killing his last wife. His West Indian housekeeper, Mrs Willymore or Willy for short, has secrets of her own and looks after her boss with a strange kind of quiet over-possessiveness. And she may or may not be drugging Catherine’s drinks and rifling through her drawers at night, but if she is, then why?

1973 Hardcover

Story-wise I really wasn’t expecting much more than your average ‘guess who wants you dead for your money, honey’ kind of gothic but I must say The Ledge is turning out to be a rather engrossing read. There aren’t any ghosts in this house but plenty of disturbing dreams and damaged psyches, all colliding to create a taut, suspenseful read. Here’s a taster from the inside cover:

“Something rustled. There was the sound of breathing close by. Catherine held her own breath. The sound of breathing continued. This time there was no mistaking it. Someone was in her room.

She sat up, her heart pounding, and called out, “Who’s there?” But she saw who it was before the words were out.

Mrs. Willymore stood beside the bed in her peignoir. Silent. Then slowly she moved a cloth toward Catherine’s face. Catherine shrank back.

“Don’t be frightened.” The housekeeper whispered.

Like the sinister Mrs Willymore, this book whispers rather than screams and if understated, well written psychological thrillers are your thing, I would definitely recommend it. Four out of five stars.

There is a signature to the bottom left of the cover but unfortunately I can’t make head nor tale of it. Any ideas?

This Old Evil House

She made the strange turquoise house reveal its terrible secret – and found herself  staring into Death’s face……

thisolhouseRuth Ames could hardly believe her good fortune when she and her husband Charles found a house that they could afford. But the turquoise colour was not the only strange thing about the new house. For soon after they moved in, Ruth knew that evil had happened there.

Was there any truth to the frightening stories her neighbors told – stories about the torture that was a grisly part of the house’s past and the murder that had taken place nearby?

At first Ruth tried to ignore their warnings, until one day she felt the icy fingers of fear, and the death that had haunted her home was no longer a chilling tale, but a horror filled reality…..

Written by Laura Frances Brooks (aka W.E.D Ross) , first Ace Printing August 1975.

Hmmmm. Not sure about this one. It starts off promising enough when Ruth and her husband Charles Ames end up with far more than a bargain after purchasing a too cheap hunk of bright blue real estate along the east coast. Soon enough, before you can scream ‘Oi, look behind you!’ there are all manner of  strange happenings and murderous secrets popping out of the antiquated woodwork.

Unfortunately the pace and plot of the story just didn’t cut it for me and I found it difficult to stay sighinvolved in this one. There are some nice gothic touches and hints of phantasmal goings on, with ghostly footsteps in the attic and mysterious scents haunting Ruth’s sleep, but these are overshadowed by the motley, raggle taggle crew that makes up the novel’s supporting characters – believe me these neighbours are weird, and not in a good way; the poor characterisation and stilted dialogue seriously compromise the novel’s credibility. I also found the relationship between Charles and Ruth a little jarring at times and bordering on the abusive.

Our protagonist, Ruth, was likable enough and the writing was at it’s best when focused on her and her ever increasing anxiety when left alone in the house,  solving it’s secrets while edging  ever closer to her own death, and with a little tweaking this could have turned into a rather good murder mystery, but ultimately it was let down by too many unconvincing chacters all vying for attention, overcomplicating the story and draining it of suspense. Also the ending came about far too sudden and as a result was a little unconvincing but by then I was finding it difficult to care. Two out of five stars.