Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Crumbling Old Mansion Hosts a Family Tragedy

The Altons are a happy family. Momma and Papa are devoted to each other and to their four children: the twins, Caroline and Toby, and the younger children, Kitty and Barney. They're looking forward to their holiday at the family's Cornwall estate, Black Rabbit Hall, but all too quickly tragedy strikes and the holiday turns into a nightmare.

Years later, Lorna and her fiance, Jon, visit Black Rabbit Hall in search of a place to have their wedding. Jon is not convinced that the crumbling old house is a good place to bring their friends and families, but Lorna falls in love with the place.

Instead of the once happy family, the house is occupied by an old woman, who reminded me of the housekeeper in Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. In spite of feeling the strangeness of the house, Lorna accepts an invitation to stay and get to know the place. She stumbles on clues to the family tragedy and gradually, the place becomes even more terrifying.

If you like Gothic romance, this is a good one. The story is told in two time periods. Caroline narrates the earlier story and Lorna is the main character in the later events. I enjoyed the mystery, but I felt the telling was too drawn out. We hear a great deal more about Caroline and her siblings than seems necessary for the action. 

Lorna behaves in ways that don't seem realistic. In the first place, she accepts an invitation from a frightening woman she scarcely knows. Then trapped in a creepy old house, she persists in searching for the secrets of the house and the family although the atmosphere becomes more and more sinister.

I recommend this book as a romantic mystery, but it has flaws, It's too long and the characters are often not believable.

I reviewed this book for Penguin.