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.


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.