Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Where is Holly Carleton?" by Susan Marvin

Setting:  Modern Day
Published:  1973

"I am Mme. Manet,"  she introduced herself.  "Do you wish to see me?"

"Well, I--I asked for Mme.  Holly Manet, my sister," Janice tried to explain.

"Mademoiselle, there is no Holly Manet living here at the Villa Fontaine,"  she said with a touch of irritation.  "I am afraid you have been given an incorrect address."

"Jacques' wife,"  Janice said quickly, her heart thumping.  "My sister Holly."  It sounded absurdly repetitious.

"There has been some mistake,"  Mme.  Manet said stiffly.  "My son Jacques is not married..."


Back Cover Synopsis

"I married the handsomest man," Holly wrote. "You must come to France to stay with us..." But when Janice Carleton made the long journey to be with her sister, no bride and bridegroom where there to meet her. Relatives denied knowledge of any marriage, and the police accused Janice of "bothering" such wealthy and respected people. With no one to help her solve the mystery, Janice would have to do it herself...


When schoolteacher, Janice, receives exciting news from her young actress sister that she's hastily wed, Janice changes her tour plans to visit Holly in a tiny village town in France.  However, when she arrives the wealthy household of Villa Fontaine is quite adamant that their heir, Jacques, has never been married.  They insist that Holly simply has been beguiled by someone masquerading as the young Jacques.  

Janice holds steadfast that her sister is sophisticated enough to realize whether she is marrying an impostor and when she is offered  a job sitting the elderly Mme. Simone, she stays on in hopes of solving the disappearance of her sister.

Life at Villa Fontaine is further complicated when she is befriended by a reporter, Neil, who says he's been stood up for an interview with Jacques.  He, too, finds this bit of irresponsibility uncharacteristic of the successful business tycoon.  A romance blooms between the two as Neil aids Janice in uncovering the secret of where her sister has gone.

Together, they journey into the hillsides and wilderness of France, into tiny towns where the locals have sinister accusations of Americans.  Holly is willing to risk her own life in order to save her sister from what she senses is certain peril.

All in all, this was a pretty good read.  It was a bit slow in parts when the searching through France became redundant.  It has several subplots and some atmospheric side stories that make for a quick-paced, descriptive read.  Recommend!

Interesting Food:  Desert:  Mousse and Coffee;  burnt almond pudding  with coffee ice cream and macaroons.  Dinner:  Creamed fillets of sole with oysters and shrimp served with thin wedges of toast.  Veal in read wine sauce.  Asparagus with peas.  Foie gras in gelatin.

Best Gothic Elements:  kidnapping, missing persons, mysterious disappearance, a lame person who works as gardener, rich tycoon, missing heir, animosity among locals toward tourists, a sinister butler/driver who is not trusted, domineering house maid, maid who steals and tries to frame tourist, small town secrets

My Rating:  


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Boris Karloff's Thriller - Rose's Last Summer

I love digging through these old TV shows and resurrecting, per say, the episodes that I feel are reminiscent of the vintage gothic stories.

Maybe it is because of the times back then and how these types of story-lines were rehashed and rewritten over and over. Perhaps the Gothic Romance story-lines were just that appealing to the common-day audience at the time.  I think they would have had to have been, considering the ungodly amount of paperbacks that once littered store shelves.

Yet, I found the plot-theme of this episode eerily presenting of so many of the gothics I have read over the years.  Same plot, just enough of a twist in characters and story-line to define it as a whole new story.



Season 1 Episode 5, 1960, Hosted by Boris Karloff , An aging actress is mysteriously found dead in a family's garden, and they may know more about her death than they will admit.
Written and Directed by: Maxwell Shane

"Naked Once More" by Elizabeth Peters (A Short Review)


Published:  1990
Setting:  Modern Day


Cover Synopsis:

She may be a bestselling author, but ex-librarian Jacqueline Kirby's views on the publishing biz aren't fit to print. In fact, she's thinking of trading celebrity for serenity and a house far away from fiendish editors and demented fans when her agent whispers the only words that could ever make her stay: Naked in the Ice.

Seven years ago, this blockbuster skyrocketed Kathleen Darcy to instant fame. Now the author's heirs are looking for a writer to pen the sequel. It's an opportunity no novelist in her right mind would pass up, and there's no doubting Jacqueline's sanity...until she starts digging through the missing woman's papers - and her past. Until she gets mixed up with Kathleen's enigmatic lover. Until a series of nasty accidents convince her much too late that someone wants to bring Jacqueline's story -and her life - to a premature end.



I have read (and own many) Barbara Michael's books.  So, I figured since the same author wrote this book (albeit published under the pen-name Elizabeth Peters) that I would find it just as enjoyable as the dark, brooding, gothic mysteries of Michael's.  Boy, was I wrong!

This book is a simple who-done-it mystery.  Not only that, it's only one of a complete series (I also was not aware when I began to read it) so there was some references to earlier stories that I did not fully understand.

To make a long story short, Jacqueline Kirby as come to a writer's retreat in order to solve the disappearance/death of a famous romance writer.  She must eliminate the suspects and get to the truth.

Honestly, what I remember most about this book is the meals she ate.  The ending did surprise me, I totally did not see the ending coming.  However, the rest of the book is predictable and...yes...boring!

Only read it if you don't have anything creepier at hand!


Best Gothic Elements:  stolen identity, disappearances, poisoning by food, ghosts



3 Stars

Friday, March 17, 2017

"Northwater" by Cecily Crowe

Published:  1968
Setting:  Modern Day

The dim yellow wall lights in the upstairs serve merely to cloud the eyes.  "Kitty?" I called softly.  I stood still, listening.  "Kitty?"

I must have known where she had gone.  I must have believed she wouldn't play tricks on me,that malevolence wasn't in her nature, to lie in wait for me in the dark; I still believe it.  It was one of those accidents of timing, and Kitty, thinking I was still with Father Boneau, or not thinking at all but impelled by inner grieving, had simply taken advantage of the moment to linger behind and offer up her penance, perhaps even her prayer.

I turned the corner and went silently to Mother's room. Inside, the thick darkness was only faintly yellowed by hall lights. I crossed the carpet toward the dressing room.

I stopped moving as if I had stepped off a precipice.  Mother! She was bent over the dressing table once more, in her long white dress, her forehead resting on the glass...

A scream (whose?  mine?)  rose and spit the darkness, seemed to pierce all the rooms of the house.  A familiar pain stabbed me, I was falling steeply, groping in the black rushing air, and even after the white figure moved and became Kitty I continued to fall, pain and darkness engulfing me until the last pinpoint that was myself disappeared in space...and, like a tiny light, went out...


Cover Synopsis:

Althea North has come home to Northwater a very different person from the wild and beautiful girl who left the New England mansion eleven years before.  She has lived through a disastrous marriage to an Italian Count, a harrowing bout with narcotics and several promiscuous love affairs.  Now, Althea has returned to settle an account with her life - and to die.  Ill with an incurable disease, she knows she has little time to find the peace she longs for or to help her younger sister, Kitty, who is tormented by the mysterious death of their domineering mother.

Althea sets to work to reopen Northwater and to become reacquainted with Kitty and her husband Jack, the garage mechanic whom Kitty married in defiance of her mother's wishes.  Plagued by her worsening illness and by terrible nightmares of her mother's ghost, Althea tries desperately to uncover the horror of her family's life and death.

As her relationship with Kitty deepens, Althea slowly develops friends among the people of the town who at first view "the Countess Branzini" with suspicion.  Then, as if by a miracle, a never-before realized capacity to love.

Writing in the same graceful style that made The Tower of Kilraven so popular, Cecily Crowe weaves Althea's strange story against the background of life and its conflicts in a New England resort town to create a novel of ever-mounting suspense which ends only at the last - and crucial - confrontation between the two haunted sisters.


This short novel was so eloquently written that I would almost label it as literary fiction, even though it was released in the Gothic Romance genre.  

Another reader described this book synopsis as deceptive and simple and I would have to agree.  Short as it was, this story was powerfully chilling (both emotionally and psychologically).  The main character, Althea, has had her share of living (drugs, affairs,etc) and has recently discovered she is terminally ill and so decides to return to her childhood home, an old mansion in the backhills of a sea resort town. 

The plot of the book revolves around Althea's guilt, as well a that of her younger, more vulnerable sister, over the mysterious death/suicide of their mother.  Althea seems to be struggling with a primal, deep-set guilt and is seeking forgiveness...mostly that of herself.

The novel has deep, sinister undertones.  The echoes of old ghosts.  Family sagas and secrets. And a mysterious death.  I had the feeling of something evil constantly lurking in the background.  This is a read I could not put down!


Best Gothic Elements:  ghosts, murder, suicide, terminally ill character, old plantation mansion nestled on the out-banks of New England, family secrets and lies, a domineering and controlling mother.


5 Stars

Friday, December 9, 2016

Dark Shadows: The Original, Episode 3

My name is Victoria Winters.  Collinwood, a strange, dark mansion brooding on the crest of  a lonely hill.  It's my home now and the outside world seems a million miles away.  Yet I know there are homes and warmth in Collinsport.  I know there are people with hopes and dreams and unexpressed fears.




Carolyn:  Vicki, you seem like a nice person.  Do yourself a favor, go back home to New York.

Victoria:  You know, I've been hearing that every hour, on the hour, since I got here.  Why does everyone want me to go home?

Carolyn (later in the conversation):  I guess I'll never have any real choices until I...

.......

---Burke Devlin meets Joe Haskell (Carolyn's boyfriend) and says he wants to ask him about the girl he wants to marry.  In a way, he interrogates Joe.  He offers to give him money in exchange for information regarding Carolyn and Elizabeth Stoddard.

Joe Haskell:  She doesn't want to leave her mother alone up there.  That makes sense, doesn't it?

Devlin Burke:  Does it?  Does that make sense, Joe?  A woman stays on that hill for 18 years, she could walk off anytime, but she won't do it.  How long are you going to wait, another 18 years?

.......




---Roger visits Maggie at the Collinsport Inn.  He says he needs to see her father.  He also inquires of Burke Devlin.

Carolyn:  You know, it's a funny thing how fond Pop used to be of Burke.  He's never mentioned him.  Never mentioned his name not once in all these years.





 As Carolyn gives Vicki a grand tour, a door opens of it's own accord.

Carolyn:  Vicki, you're going to have to get use to doors like that.  It isn't easy, I know, but you'll have to try.






As Roger awaits Maggies father at the Inn, he's approached by a fisherman who informs him that Burke Devlin is back in town.  Roger tells him he's not concerned.

Mallory:  Roger, you're either a much braver man than I thought you were, or a much bigger fool.

I suppose Mallory is accurate in his concern, considering what Devlin said to him in an earlier conversation.

Burke Devlin:  Mr.  Mallory, when I was a kid I used to go up to Collinwood and look for ghosts.  We all used to think it was haunted.  Well, I didn't find any then.  But they're there.  They creep out of every corner, and hide under every bed.  Well, I didn't put them there, Mr. Mallory.  But I'm sure going to do everything I can to dig them out!





The show wraps with Carolyn and Vicki inside Vicki's room.

Carolyn:  Vicki, take my advice.  Lock your door and get a good nights sleep cause come tomorrow you're going to need it!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

"The Secret of Greylands" by Annie Haynes (A Short Review)

Published:  1924
Setting:  Historical


Back Cover Synopsis:

“There’s no dirty trick he wouldn’t play—it’s my belief that he wouldn’t even stop at murder!”Her husband unmasked as a scoundrel, Lady Cynthia Letchingham seeks refuge at her cousin Hannah’s north-country home Greylands. But on Cynthia’s arrival, she finds Hannah an invalid, having recently suffered a mysterious paralysis; the house is devoid of servants, and Hannah’s husband, charming and sinister by turns, keeps watch over everything and everyone. Only the presence of charming Sybil Hammond and a darkly handsome neighbour relieve the atmosphere for Cynthia - but then a dark red stain appears mysteriously on the sleeve of her coat…

What has really happened to Hannah, and the other entangled mysteries along the way, make The Secret of Greylands (1924) an absorbing golden age crime novel matching Wilkie Collins’ high Victorian gothic to the agility of early jazz age fiction. This new edition, the first in over eighty years, features an introduction by crime fiction historian Curtis Evans.

“Not only a crime story of merit, but also a novel which will interest readers to whom mystery for its own sake has little appeal.” Nation

“Full of thrills and unexpected developments.” Star

“A most skilfully written detective story and the mystery is carried through quite brilliantly.” Clarion

“A capital story— highly ingenious.” Truth


I have read some pretty atrocious reviews on this book...particularly that it's hard to read.  Another complaint was boredom, or lack of mystery.  I, however, found this book quite addictive.  I was hooked from the beginning, particularly from the description of the dark and brooding moors.  Maybe I am biased, for the 'mansion on the moors' story is always compelling for me, particularly from a gothic romance/suspense point of view.

I loved the language in this book.  I think because it was truly written back in the post-Victorian age (with language from that era in tact), I was really able to absorb myself in this bygone era.  An era of simplicity and of rolling hills and vacant moors and rambling old mansions where ghosts reside. 

What's more than the atmosphere is the mystery...where is cousin Hannah?  And, yes, after a bit you come to the conclusion of who the culprit is but as another reviewer stated, the broodingly dark atmosphere and the quest to see what becomes of the main character keeps you flipping the pages.

Just another example of why a bad review doesn't always mean a bad book.  I loved this one and though it's deemed a golden age crime mystery, it really reads more as a golden age gothic romance...yes, there's some romance involved as well!


Best Gothic Elements:  stolen identity, hidden identity, stolen inheritance, murder, dark and brooding mansion on the moors, imposters, heroine getting lost in the muddy moors near dusk, strange and conniving nurse maids, mysterious illness.


I have purchased several more of these golden age mysteries from the Amazon Kindle store.  Here's to hoping the rest are every bit as good as this one was.



My Rating

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