Hazel McHaffie

Dipping into the supernatural

OK, OK, please don’t panic. I do NOT plan to plough through all Georgette Heyer‘s mystery novels! But Footsteps in the Dark goes along rather different lines – it has an element of the supernatural in it – so I owed it a mention.

An ancient and dilapidated Priory, commonly regarded as haunted, and uninhabited for years, forms the central focus. Locals steer well clear of it, and even the village constable is afraid of ‘The Monk’ – a cloaked figure appearing seemingly out of nowhere, moving soundlessly in the grounds.

But when three siblings, Peter, Celia and Margaret Fortescue, inherit the Priory from their uncle, they love its rambling charm and resist pressure to either pull it down, or just sell it and leave its ghosts in peace. However, their resolve is seriously challenged once they’ve started living there – mysterious inexplicable noises, things moving unaccountably, shadowy figures, agonising groans from beneath the floors. And when even their level-headed Aunt Lilian actually sees the black cloaked figure with cowled head and glittering eyes advancing towards her with outstretched black hand, serious misgivings set in.

I am not a fanciful woman, but there was something indescribably menacing and horrible about it.

Add to the mix a gruesome discovery in the priest hole, secret entrances discovered by chance, strangers with barely plausible credentials wandering in the grounds, a murder … and well, there is certainly something most unpleasant going on.

There’s a hint of Enid Blyton language and concepts in this book, but less of the irritating adverbs and elaborate verbs I complained of in previous Heyer mystery novels.

Hey ho. I’m done. I feel I’ve given this author a fair hearing and can now return to a more varied diet. Verdict? I retain happy memories of regency novels, but am less enamoured of her dabbling in the world of crime and mystery – supernatural or otherwise.

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