Setting: Modern Day
Just on five o'clock, and now the clouds had masked the sun completely; it was darker than twilight.
Perhaps office such as these, I thought, adhered to rigid hours; opened early as European firms were rumored to and closed precisely at this time. And yet I had seen no person, no car leaving the house at all.
If the place had been neglected, I should have been less surprised at the quiet. The villa bore rather the same turn-of-the-century air of affluence that it must originally have presented to the community...
I had not moved more than a few yards from the last step when I heard the low br-r-r of a motor on the Malinastrasse, the lane at the drives' end. And I started forward, thinking that an employee or employer might be returning from some business negotiation perhaps. I was in the drive when I heard the motor accelerate disproportionately for the confined length of drive and court.
In a flash I thought: he'd better have good brakes!
But it was too late. It was almost too late for me. The dark hood of the car came straight at me, seemed almost to rise like a jungle animal pouncing on its prey, the gleam of the metal bumper a stretched mouth, the grill of the radiator its teeth.
I leaped sideways and fell, the entire right side of my body striking the drive's soft shoulder with a thud. The fall had not been voluntary; the cars fender had caught my left hip as I flung away from it. But I did not lie even for an instant on the resilient blend of pine needles and black earth that had cushioned the fall for me. I had heard the sharp squeal of brakes as the driver brought the car to a very short stop in the court, not many yards behind me.
Back Cover Synopsis:
What more pleasant prospect could there be for two young American girls like Constance and Peg than to fly to Europe for a summer trip? Constance would study in London for a few weeks, then join Peg, who is interested in Medieval carved figurines, in Zurich for a mountain holiday in search of treasure. Both have romance in mind as well as foreign travel.
But from the beginning Constance worries about her impulsive, temperamental friend. There is little news from her, and what there is is alarming. She seems to have met a fascinating man and is going off with him on a mysterious mission.
Then curious things begin to happen to Constance herself: Her London flat is ransacked, and she is assaulted in the lobby. And two interesting but enigmatic men pursue her with their attentions.
She decides to go to Switzerland to find Peg, but neither in Zurich nor later in Liechtenstein, where the trail leads her, can she catch up with her best friend. At length the search leads her to the remote Verlorenen Tal, where an action climax plunges Constance into tragedy.
I honestly wanted to like this book. I fell in love with the setting. There was so much mystery, the surroundings of foreign cities I've never seen before. Even the romance was compelling. I was also drawn into the mysterious magesty of the figurines and the treasure hunt. However, this book was just...jumpy. I got lost in between the series of events and had trouble really stringing the whole mystery together. In a lot of places, things moved much too slowly. Things that didn't need that much description were just totally over-written. The author fleshed out aspects of the novel that seemed to be going in one direction (that perhaps the initial male was going to stalk one of the main characters) which ended up not being so. I was left utterly confused during the last half of the book. The only saving grace was the action-packed climax at the very end. Yes it's a vintage gothic. It's more of an adventure mystery than anything. I finished it because, really, I just kept trying to figure out what the hell was going on. I would recommend it if you're bored and are looking for a drawn out, sort of mysterious, foreign adventure. Otherwise, go to your next selection on the TBR pile.
Best Gothic Elements: weird ancient figurines, traveling to a foreign country alone, someone's living quarters being ransacked, someone's luggage being ransacked and/or switched, impostors, drug trafficking, murder, abandoned villages and mansions in mountain towns in the middle of nowhere, being isolated and held against one's will.