Saturday, October 15, 2016

"The Secret of Greylands" by Annie Haynes (A Short Review)

Published:  1924
Setting:  Historical

Back Cover Synopsis:

“There’s no dirty trick he wouldn’t play—it’s my belief that he wouldn’t even stop at murder!”Her husband unmasked as a scoundrel, Lady Cynthia Letchingham seeks refuge at her cousin Hannah’s north-country home Greylands. But on Cynthia’s arrival, she finds Hannah an invalid, having recently suffered a mysterious paralysis; the house is devoid of servants, and Hannah’s husband, charming and sinister by turns, keeps watch over everything and everyone. Only the presence of charming Sybil Hammond and a darkly handsome neighbour relieve the atmosphere for Cynthia - but then a dark red stain appears mysteriously on the sleeve of her coat…

What has really happened to Hannah, and the other entangled mysteries along the way, make The Secret of Greylands (1924) an absorbing golden age crime novel matching Wilkie Collins’ high Victorian gothic to the agility of early jazz age fiction. This new edition, the first in over eighty years, features an introduction by crime fiction historian Curtis Evans.

“Not only a crime story of merit, but also a novel which will interest readers to whom mystery for its own sake has little appeal.” Nation

“Full of thrills and unexpected developments.” Star

“A most skilfully written detective story and the mystery is carried through quite brilliantly.” Clarion

“A capital story— highly ingenious.” Truth

I have read some pretty atrocious reviews on this book...particularly that it's hard to read.  Another complaint was boredom, or lack of mystery.  I, however, found this book quite addictive.  I was hooked from the beginning, particularly from the description of the dark and brooding moors.  Maybe I am biased, for the 'mansion on the moors' story is always compelling for me, particularly from a gothic romance/suspense point of view.

I loved the language in this book.  I think because it was truly written back in the post-Victorian age (with language from that era in tact), I was really able to absorb myself in this bygone era.  An era of simplicity and of rolling hills and vacant moors and rambling old mansions where ghosts reside. 

What's more than the atmosphere is the mystery...where is cousin Hannah?  And, yes, after a bit you come to the conclusion of who the culprit is but as another reviewer stated, the broodingly dark atmosphere and the quest to see what becomes of the main character keeps you flipping the pages.

Just another example of why a bad review doesn't always mean a bad book.  I loved this one and though it's deemed a golden age crime mystery, it really reads more as a golden age gothic romance...yes, there's some romance involved as well!

Best Gothic Elements:  stolen identity, hidden identity, stolen inheritance, murder, dark and brooding mansion on the moors, imposters, heroine getting lost in the muddy moors near dusk, strange and conniving nurse maids, mysterious illness.

I have purchased several more of these golden age mysteries from the Amazon Kindle store.  Here's to hoping the rest are every bit as good as this one was.

My Rating

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