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3.8 out of 5 stars11
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 18 September 2012
The first page of this cracking thriller was enough to hook me: a wild and windy walk through unfamiliar countryside while darkness falls ...

The characterisation is first class: we genuinely believe in this ghastly cast of folk living in a claustrophobic and sinister house. And the twist is satisfying when it comes.
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Ethel Lina White isn't necessarily a name that you may know, her literary output in her lifetime was pretty modest, compared with some of her peers. Nowadays it seems more and more difficult to get hold of her works, so it is is good that this is now more widely available. Although you may not have heard of her, you will surely recognise two films that were made out of her novels, 'The Wheel Spins' became Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes [DVD], and this novel was the basis for The Spiral Staircase [DVD] [1945]. The film was based and inspired by this book, but there are differences, the major one being that in this, Helen Capel isn't a mute. I will not tell you whether the murderer is the same, you will just have to read the book to find out.

Nineteen year old Helen Capel has got a job in the Warren family household, which is somewhere on the English/ Welsh border. The house is pretty isolated, there are other houses within a few miles, but the nearest village is twelve miles away. Recently there has been a spate of murders, all the victims being young women who work. The murders are gradually coming closer to the Warren house. With a new nurse being installed, on a very stormy night, the house is left in isolation, and as people leave, others are drugged, there seems to be only the nurse, the old invalid, Lady Warren, and Helen awake.

Murder is in the air, and Helen the obvious victim, but can it be prevented? This story takes in the dynamics of a group, the tensions and teasing that goes on and you find yourself becoming fully immersed in the tale, even more so than the film. If you are into the 'Golden Age' of crime, then you should really read this book - it is well worth it.
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on 5 August 2014
I loved this. I was drawn in completely from the very first page as Helen walked home to her isolated cottage and started thinking about recent murders in the area. She is inquisitive with a vivid imagination, and the book follows the events of the rest of that night, and the different residents of the house, through Helen’s eyes. Is there a murderer on the loose, and if so is it inside or outside the house, or is all just imagination?

This is a country house tale with great suspense that will grip you and has a lovely affection and humour for its characters. I couldn’t put it down.

Excellent and thoroughly recommend.
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on 12 May 2015
Talk about creepy! The first chapter really gave me the shudders - then I realized that a lot of the fear was in the heroines imagination! There is a constant edge to the story which keeps the reader guessing all the way through, and it is certainly a chiller. That said, there is a lot of humour in the story also and some very astute human observations. Very well written, and good to have a gutsy female or two in a story from this era. What a pity so few of Ethel Lina White's books are in print now. Surely this could be rectified?
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on 30 January 2016
I'm struggling to read this. It is easy to read in some ways, but the actual story is very slow moving. I say actual story because most of what goes on is in Helen's imagination. I also find it very difficult to be able to tell the difference between some of the characters. None of the characters are well drawn, or are particularly likeable. All of which means I don't particularly care what happens. I've read 150 pages, and I won't get that time back. Time to reach for a better book.
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on 9 August 2014
great read thanks Sue
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on 15 September 2014
Amusing book, a bit lightweight and a bit over the top, but quite enjoyable. I feel the same about all his books, but I shall continue to buy them.
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on 9 April 2013
I thought this was a muddled read. The characters spoke and behaved in a way that is hard to believe.
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on 21 July 2014
Although the basic plot , (murdering maniac at large with female inhabitants of, creepy isolated house in danger ) is good , the characters are not believable . I wanted to know who was the murderer but I became increasingly exasperated by the characters..
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on 26 November 2012
you wouldnt get away with such constipated writing and purple prose these days but it was great fun to read and a daft but gripping story and it had a lovely innocence.
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