Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"The Whispering Runes" by Doris Shannon

Published:  1972
Setting:  Modern Day

As she walked up the driveway, she could hear the sound of his car receding in the distance.

Once it was gone, silence descended in a thick blanket, broken only by the wind moving in the trees over her head. Her tiny light cast a weak, wavering beam through the inky darkness. She wished she had a larger light. She also wished she'd worn low-heeled shoes. Picking her way along, she tried to avoid the larger rocks on the driveway. Then her heart gave a thud. Something rustled to her right, in the dense bushes that lined the driveway.

Her heart pounding, she stopped and flashed the light into the bushes. She could see nothing. Remembering the rabbit in the woods behind Arenel, she smiled. No doubt it was one of the small animal's relatives.

She walked on. The sound continued. It was paraleling in her course. No rabbit would do that. She quickened her step. Footsteps in the darkness beside her kept pace.

Don't panic, she told herself sternly. The she did. Breaking into a run, she headed up the driveway. Behind her she could heart her pursuer. Whoever it was had left the cover of the trees and was on the gravel.

She heard someone directly behind her. She strid to move. An axe came whistling down. It narrowly missed her arm. The blade landed only a few inches from her hand. With the strength of desperation she wrenched herself up and away from the cold steel.

No memory ever remained of the last few yards. One minute she was on the gravel. The next she was pounding on the white door.

It swung inward. A figure was silhouetted against the light. It was a man. She could feel warm liquid trickling down her legs. Vaguely she knew she was bleeding...

Front Cover Synopsis:

It seemed almost as if Death were stalking Sarah. Her writer-husband had been killed in an automobile accident in which she had been injured. Now, forced to forget and earn a living, she had come to Arenel to catalogue the library of Lady Marion, only to discover that her friend, too, had died suddenly since hirig her, and that there were those at Arenel who would have turned her from the door without qualm. Perhaps she should have left, but somehow a force stronger than their antagonism impelled her to force her way in and to meet the challenge they presented.

This is a Lenox Hill Press book, but the quick-mystery reading and the layout reminded me of the earlier Avalon gothic romances.

There's quite a mystery packed tightly into the short 192 pages of reading. It's a little formulaic but surprisingly that doesn't take away from this sordid tale.

You have the typical young girl, reeling from the loss of death and overcoming a head injury, who comes to a mysterious old mansion for a job...only to find madness, family secrets and peril awaiting her.

There's also quite a twisted family tree enmeshed between the gory details of one girls brush with death and murder.

Definitely an origial vintage gothic romance. Worth the read!

Best Gothic Elements: a real life ogre; twisted family relationships; stolen identity; switched identity; treasure-seeking; an inheritance at stake; murder by poisoning; dysfunctional family history unveiled; incestual relations.

4 Stars

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