House of Many Shadows

(No Series)

Meg Rittenhouse fears she is losing her mind. The doctors tell her the strange and disturbing hallucinations she's been experiencing ever since her accident are all in her head, and that, with a little rest, the haunting visions will vanish. But accepting an invitation to stay with her cousin in the country may be the worst decision Meg has ever made. Here, in a remote old house miles from anywhere, the terrible sights and sounds have gotten even worse. Suddenly eerie black shapes dance in the shadows—mocking Meg, haunting her . . . threatening her. And the presence of kind, considerate Andy Brenner, the caretaker, both reassures her and terrifies her—because Andy also sees these dark specters . . .

A re-read

This is one of those books that is good, but not great, and then it warms up to you more at the end.

Barbara Michaels had an enthusiasm for old houses that shows clearly in almost all her gothic works, of which there were many. She also has a fondness for antiques. I noticed that in Agatha Christie's biography, she also loved houses, antiques, and traveling - which Barbara Michaels did as well under her real name, Barbara Mertz. (She had a PhD in Egyptology.) It's telling that antiques, old houses, and the cultural history of places is fascinating, each having countless stories and mysteries of their own waiting to be told.

House of Many Shadows has a slower pace because the mystery can only unravel slowly. The location isn't as interesting since, because of illness, finances, and plot, the two mains are almost exclusively isolated in one location (the house.) They go into town for research, but it's a small town and only feeds into the story of "THE HOUSE."

Meg has been offered a reprieve for six months by her unusual aunt Sylvia - to go to the country, the house, and stay there for six months. There they hope she will recover from a head injury that has been giving her visual and auditory hallucinations. On the property, a caretaker is also recovering from his own illness, finding solitude to be a balm in recovery.

There is no way a reader can guess the complex outcome of this one. Clues are too ambiguous, yet they are not teased. They drift down slow, steady, but they seem simple on the surface. In the end how it all ties together is actually layered. This gothic delivers the punches with the paranormal, but avoids cliches in doing so. When it seems like it is too simple, the next few chapters shows there is much to be discovered and the characters are back to square one.

The ending and the girl's face in the last vision a little haunting - I think I'll remember that shocked glance for awhile. This is only fitting since the characters have been slowly haunted (but not in classic methods) for the entire book.

Flimsy on the 'pure gothic angle', but rich with mystery and history. As a side bonus, I'm curious about embroidery now!

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