Thursday, August 13, 2015

"Black Candle" by Christine Randell

Published:  1968
Setting:  Modern Day

...I drove off down the unfamiliar lane, then glanced in the driving mirror to see if I was being followed, smiling at myself at the absurdity of the thought.  For who would suspect the nature of my errand, and credit the eccentricity of an old man who thought his savings safer in a barn than in a bank?

I reached the barn with no need to refer to the diagram.  It stood on the edge of the wood as father had described.  The place was so big, solid, and windowless with a heavy creaking door the full length of the building.  I pulled it open and stared uneasily.  Inside it was black as night, and I wished my father had advised me to bring a torch.  The door would not open far but I pulled it as wide as possible to give me the maximum light, then moved inside.  The place was cold and damp, and had a foul smell of decay.  Cautiously I groped my way across the ground, stumbling over some unseen object and hurting my leg.

I stopped to rub my leg, and to try to become accustomed to the gloom.  This errand was not going to be as easy as I had supposed, and I suddenly felt a disturbing sense of apprehension, and wished I had never embarked upon it.  My heart was racing as I moved further into the darkness, then I leaped like  startled cat as the door slammed shut, and the darkness was absolute.

It took a moment or two before I could stumble my way back to the door, where my trembling hands seized the handle and pushed with all my might.  The door did not budge...suddenly reason vanished, and I was pushing and pulling in turn, and felt the wetness of tears on my face.  The door was jammed solid, and could not be budged...

I was a prisoner in this old barn, with no idea when I might be released.  I sank to the ground in hopeless despair, and covered my face to hide the darkness from my eyes...

Back Cover Synopsis:

I could feel that evil things had happened in this house and that evil people had lived here.  Overlaying the chill, the damp, the smell of death and decay, was an overwhelming sense of awareness that evil forces were at work, and had been throughout the centuries.

This is Lorna's first reaction to Maulicrane Farm where she has come to visit her dying father- a father she had never met.  As the days pass, events prove to Lorna that there is still a very real danger at Maulicrane.

At first she believes it is her father who is threatened- kept in a drugged state so that he cannot recover from his mysterious illness.  Suddenly she learns that she herself is the target- the intended victim in a terrifying, deadly plot.

Best Gothic Elements:  buried/lost fortune, heroine who stumbles into the hands of a dying father and stands to inherit his fortune, curses, evil & senile housekeepers, a sick man being held prisoner, exchanging of identities, impostors, murder, faking ones death, ghosts and hauntings, one person drugging the drink of another, heroine is locked in an abandoned barn, Irish Farm, diabolic love affair

This book was easy to read with a mystery well enough designed to keep things paced.  

Lorna loses her mother to a car accident and, left with no family, decides to contact the father she never knew.  Years earlier, Lorna's own mother escaped what she described as an evil place, with Lorna in tow as a young child.  Now, Lorna feels compelled to at least meet the man who fathered her.  

But there is no warm homecoming at Maulicrane Farm, where her father lays, deathly ill.  She arrives on the day of a funeral, but soon will learn the death was her father's close friend, who has placed a curse upon the house prior to his death.

Much of the story consists of Lorna trying to escape the evil, domineering clutches of a crazed housekeeper who intends to keep her father there for her own selfish there is a fortune hidden somewhere and she's hell-bent on getting her hands on it.    Things aren't made easy for Lorna, what with the perverted & dishonest farm help, jealous housekeepers, and a ghost who steals an important piece of jewelry left to her by her mother.  Her only solace in the whole situation is the young English doctor who has befriended, and romanced, her.

But just when Lorna feels she's solved everything...she comes face to face with a horrific truth even more diabolic than any nightmare!

Highly recommend for fans of vintage gothic.  Very original with a surprise twist ending!

My Rating:
4 Stars

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