Monday, January 25, 2016

"The House at Fern Canyon" by Willow Davis Roberts

Published:  1970
Setting:  Modern Day

The floor tilted under my feet so that I seemed to be moving uphill.  The door behind me...the one into the girls' room...rattled as if someone were shaking it.  The soap slithered off the edge of the sink and skidded across the floor, swept by some unseen hand.

In the room beyond the massive chandelier swung freely, as if it had been given a gigantic push, making an eerie creaking sound.  I managed to take another step, reaching the doorway, wondering if this old house would come down around my head...

As suddenly as it had begun, the motion stopped.  Simultaneously, two things happened.  The lights went out, cutting off the air-conditioner, as well, and as I was in the process of moving out into my room something struck me a vicious blow across the back of the head and neck.

The pain was excruciating.  I felt the nap of the carpeting, smelling of dust, under my face, and was powerless to move, to speak, to cry.  I didn't lose consciousness...that would have been too much to ask...and in the ensuing silence I distinctly heard a door close.  My door, the one onto the veranda.

Back Cover Synopsis:


It started in San Francisco, where Dee Tyler found herself a war widow after only three weeks of marriage;   Three weeks of happiness that were not enough to make up for the following months of sorrow.  She had come to San Francisco to meet her returning husband, and instead found herself stranded, without resources.  The future seemed bleak, until she met Enid Cassel, a fifty-year-old widow in town to pick up her niece's children.  Enid's sudden appearance in Dee's life was like a gift from God.  The older woman needed someone to care for the children, and Dee found herself on the way to Fern Canyon as companion to the two young girls...Not realizing she had invited herself to her own funeral!

This book was solid, from the first page to the last.  I fell completely into the atmosphere of this bizarre mystery.  The author did an amazing job bringing each and every character in this book to life.  I felt almost as if I were a voyeur watching this story unfold.  Loved getting the chance to visit the back hills of California via the lovely and amusing descriptions.  I found the main character to be sharp and endearing.  She faced fears and kept her wits about her.  The villains were also not of the usual variety, which made the mystery even better.  The ending was explosive.  Literally.  This story was an excellent 'whodunit' and I highly recommend to fans of vintage gothic romance.

Best Gothic Elements:  A young and lonely widow is befriended by an old lady who offers her a job, family secrets, money laundering, an escaped convict, drunkards, huge old decaying mansion in the middle of nowhere, near-death escapes and attempts being made on the main characters' life, familial dysfunction, heiresses, being stalked, graveyards.

My Rating:
5 Stars

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