Sunday, November 16, 2014

'Last Place in the World' by Margarete Sparks

Published:  1975
Setting:  Modern Day

She had better hurry and get off this narrow, unfamiliar road while there was still time before dark.  There was no use calling upon the occupants of the house in the distance, since she handn't their names on her list.  On this old, abandoned road it was not likely that they were newcomers anyway.  Usually the older, large mountain homes were owed by well-to-do people who had been fleeing to the mountains to escape the summer heat for years, since Fleming was a small settlement.

The car wouldn't start.  She tried to bring to life the small sound she heard and kept turning the key until she was afraid she might wear out the starter.  Exasperated and now a little uneasy on the deserted road, Madrid again glanced through the trees and observed the outline of the house.  The reflection from its windows was now gone.  If she had not noticed the awesome balls of tinted gold five minutes ago, she would have been completely unaware that the house in the distance existed.

She had walked three-quarters of the way from her car to the house when the breeze grew stronger and the trees, some with their branches hanging directly overhead on the narrow road, changed their whispering to moans.  Grass growing between the cracks in the paving waved frantically in a sudden wind.

Madrid was not too surprised when lightning began to flash from a darkening sky, and she was soon pelted sharply with large raindrops.  She quickened her pace as thunder rolled above her.  When the thunder crashed and the rain began to pour, she changed the fast walking to a run...she was suddenly terribly frightened of the gathering darkness...

Madrid Palmer is new to the small town of Fleming, Arizona.  She's just been transferred by her company, the Hi Ya Stranger Agency, and is doing a house call for a new resident when her car breaks down.  Thankfully, the sun is setting in just the right spot because she notices its reflection in some windows in the far distance and realizes there must be a house hidden deep within the woods, away from the prying eyes of the public.  Just as she nears the beautiful, old house, the sky opens and she's drenched before she ever reaches the front door.

However, the friendly lady (Virginia Toblin) who opens the door is more than cordial, and not only offers her a dry robe, but invites her to stay for dinner as well.  And as Madrid awaits dinner, she's also met with another fellow resident of Southerly Road, D'Arcy Nelson, whom is a rich heir to the family who owns the tudor-style mansion she's found in the mists of the woods.  Yet, as Madrid waits out the storm, she finds herself quickly forming a friendship with the two eccentric souls.  Virginia is obviously an alcoholic in need of a babysitter.  Ironically she's also redecorating the house for her ex-husband, who is said to be planning to reside in the house with his new wife in mere weeks.

What's even more ironic is how Virginia has been hired, with the help of D'Arcy and his artistic skills, to imitate the decor of the master bedroom so as to duplicate a bedroom the owner has in Pheonix, Arizona...but as Madrid stays on, she will discover hidden rooms, dangerous family affairs, secrets better left buried, dead bodies, and a murderer on her heels!

Setting:  a tudor-style mansion in the woods

Plot:  a murder mystery, sort of who-dun-it

Gothic Elements:  storms, lightning, creepy woods with moaning branches and a secret passageway.  Dead bodies and funeral homes.  Crazy house maids and sedatives given to unsuspecting victims.  A kidnapping and lots of oddball characters.

Romance:  there's an undercurrent of romance between the hero and heroine, though she still views him a a suspect until nearly the end of the book

Honestly, this book ended up being so out-landish, confusing, and just overall odd, that I would not recommend it.  Sadly, it was off to a great start, but at about 100 pages in it became apparent that the author just kept going in circles.  I finished the book by pure will and was bored with the weird ending as well.  Of course, this is an Avalon gothic, I suppose with those there's always the chance of reading a dud.  I also found it rather sad that the author seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth after writing this book, I could find no other publications by her, nor even a biography anywhere.

My Rating:
2 Stars

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