Monday, March 24, 2014

"The Dark Watch" by Genevieve St. John

Published:  1966
Setting:  Modern Day

Young and ready to leave New York, librarian Cathy Albright eagerly accepts the librarian position at Benton farm.   With excellent pay, room and board, and a job cataloging a huge, private library in a rambling old country mansion, Cathy feels that her life is taking a more serene and stable turn.  Although the job will only last three months, at most, she is excited at the prospect of having her savings in better order while working a job she enjoys.

Yet, her time at Benton Farm is foreshadowed by the dire warnings of her employer, Bryan Dunbar, executor of Raymond Benton, master of the large estate.  Bryan tells Cathy that Benton Farm is a house of death, as Mr. Benton is deathly ill and the relatives in-residence await his fortune as greedy hounds who wish the old man a swift death for their own selfish reward.

When Cathy arrives, she reasons the cold reception from Mr. Benton's second wife, Elizabeth Benton, has more to do with her being hired help than anything else; besides their niece, Joan, gave her a rather friendly welcome and offered a cold beer to soothe her nerves.  But as Cathy delves into her work, she can't help but feel something sinister is slithering silently throughout Benton Farm, especially when strange, near-death accidents begin to befall her on a regular basis.

First Cathy is pitched down a dark set of stairs in the middle of the night when she leaves to inspect mysterious noises on a floor where only she resides.  When she is wrongly accused of trying to steal rare books that are worth a fortune when her only wish was to hide them from greedy hands, Cathy can't deny the fact that someone is spying on her.  But is it the housemaid, Mary, who hates change?  Or does another member of the household have a secret vendetta that includes excluding Cathy from family affairs?  Only after she is electrocuted by a light socket that has been rewired, and a puddle of water left beneath the light switch that Cathy realizes how deadly the threat against her has become.  Someone wants rid of her bad enough to commit murder!

As the secrets of Raymond Benton come to light, so do the slow, deliberating schemes of his wife Elizabeth, the family attorney, and even niece Joan.  It seems everyone is in a hurry to secure the most recent provision of Mr. Benton's will, and several of them are desperate enough to commit murder...thrice!

When Cathy comes face to face with the real killers of Benton Farm, and the sewered cesspool that is to be her final resting place, will her new found love be enough to save her from deaths grasp and accept the new identity that has been offered her after 25 years of secrecy?

Although this book was slow-moving in some parts, with little (to no) subplots, it was still enjoyable.  I especially liked the ending, though it was almost predictable.

Rating:  3.5

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