Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"The Face in the Pond" by Clarissa Ross

Published:  1968
Setting:  Historical


The light was growing dim.  The fog swirled about the hedges even more thickly than before.  It gave the night an especially eerie atmosphere, Sarah thought, and she shivered and pulled her cloak about her tighter.

She had gone on only a few yards when she became aware that someone was following her.  She quickened her pace, and the speed of the footsteps behind her also increased.  She turned to glance apprehensively over her shoulder and saw a weird wraith-like figure, cloaked completely in black, almost upon her.

She gave a cry of fear and began to run.  And from behind there came a maniacal cackle of laughter.  Sarah stumbled...

Book Blurb:

A jury finds her innocent, but to all Edinburgh lovely Sarah Bennet is a cold-blooded murderess.  When handsome widower John Stone offers her a position as governess to his son, Sarah accepts gladly, for Mr Stone's home, Dankhurst, lies outside the city.  Free from accusing eyes, she will begin a new life.

From the moment she enters the brooding mansion, Sarah is drawn into a world of terror.  The mistress of Dankhurst, John's wife, has died violently and mysteriously; a haunted figure- perhaps her avenging ghost- leads the young girl too close to a long-buried secret.

Setting:  An dreary old mansion by the name of Dankhurst, an estate nestled into the outskirts of a village called Rawlwyn where the pond lies mossy and stale, the rolling lawn littered with statues of ancestors made grotesque by the many years of weather.

Plot:  Young Sarah, penniless and with no family to call her own, has just gone to jury for committing a murder-by-poisoning for her recently employers.  Lucky she is found innocent.  The elderly judge, noting the dire position of the girl and fearing she'd be shunned from society, whisks her away to his estate where he has arranged for her to work as governess for a young charge in a town far away.  Handsome, blonde, John Stone watched her trial closely and she is delighted that it is he who is offering her a job, and an escape, from the judgmental glares of the townspeople.  Of  course, she'll share John's estate with Abigail, the cook;  Rodney, John's drunk brother who fancies himself a poet; and a crazy old lady who served companion to the late Mrs. Stone who died of a mysterious ailment.  However, once Sarah arrives at the estate, she senses only despair and evil.  Twice someone attacks her, shredding her clothing.  The young charge falls mysteriously ill twice in a short time, and after Rodney is murdered by poison, Sarah fears for the life of herself and the young boy.  She also fears someone is framing her for yet another murder she did not commit!

Gothic Elements:  phantoms in black, attacks by unseen persons, murder, death by poisoning, a crazy, hostile housemaid.  a young charge who is deathly ill.  two romantic men who vie for the attention of the main character, one whom ultimately ends up dead.  haunted, egyptian relics kept in the attic, a real sarcophagus full with a grotesque corpse.  noises, cries in the night gone unexplained.

Romance:  I was delighted that the romance in this story actually began early on.  Sarah feels an attraction to John Stone the first time she sees him.  However, once a resident at Dankhurst, it is Rodney who declares the hope of love to Sarah.  Soon-after, John Stone declares his own love.  However, Sarah's friendship (and budding romance) ends with Rodney when he dies of poisoning.  Ultimately, she and John Stone fall in love, once her suspicions about him can be laid to rest.

This book is a quick read and I really did enjoy it.  I'll be honest, I had speculations of the ending...but I wasn't totally correct so I did end up pleasantly surprised!  The only shortcoming about this story is how quickly things roll from one scene to another...from one catastrophe to another.  I feel as if the story could be fleshed out, and would have been more interesting had it been.  No complaints, though, it was creepy enough!  The whole Egyptian thing (and the final twist in the story) literally made me shiver.  It's a fun, scary book well worth the read!  Definitely gothic romance 100%.

My Rating:
4 Stars


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