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Footsteps in the Dark Paperback – 4 Jan 2007
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"We had better start ranking Heyer alongside such incomparable whodunit authors as Christie, Marsh, Yet and Allingham" (San Francisco Chronicle)
"Rarely have we seen humour and mystery so perfectly blended" (New York Times)
"Sharp, clear and witty" (The New Yorker)
"Heyer's characters and dialogue are an abiding delight to me . . . I have seldom met people to whom I have taken so violent a fancy from the word "Go"" (Dorothy L. Sayers)
"The wittiest of detective writers" (Daily Mail)
The Priory may be ramshackled in appearance, but Peter, Margaret and Celia, who have inherited it from their uncle, love it for its rambling charm. But there's more to this house than is at first apparent: for years hardly a single person has set foot in the place, and even their uncle chose to live in a different house, far away from this particular property. Local wisdom says that the house is haunted. And when things start going bump in the night, it certainly seems as if something ghostly is walking the Priory's halls. Then a murder is committed. Does the key to solving the crime lie in the realm of the supernatural? Or is the explanation much more down to earth?See all Product description
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A family comprising a brother, two sisters, the husband of one, and an aunt, all move into the Priory, an ancient building inherited by the siblings. There they come up against all sorts of odd goings-on, which the locals blamed on the Monk, a ghostly figure said to haunt the Priory. There are many suspicious characters to ponder, including a mad, French artist, an elderly neighbour who thinks nothing of invading the property of others in the middle of the night to catch moths, and a particularly suspect young man by the name of Strange who regularly trespasses and tries to persuade them to leave. There were a couple of references to Mr Strange and his odd companion, which I found mildly amusing.
The young women were frightened by some of the events, but their menfolk and aunt were made of sterner stuff and were determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. The men armed themselves with revolvers, which appears to have been perfectly acceptable in those days, and gradually work their way through the mystery, finding priest-holes, hidden stairways, a cellar with a large stone entrance and, naturally, a skeleton along the way. All great fun, and highly recommended.
There was even a little romance. Two of the characters are attracted to each other in a polite, distant sort of way, and eventually the man takes the woman in his arms and kisses her. When they are interrupted (which is immediately), the young woman confidently announces that they are engaged to be married. Aw! Was life so simple back then? "I love everything that is old," famously said Oliver Goldsmith. "Old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine." I have to agree.
The haunted house background gives it some suitable creepy atmosphere and there are some chilling little scenes. I enjoyed the one where Mrs Bosanquet encounters The Monk for the first time. The skull on the stairs and the groaning secret door are also evoked with the right kind of frisson.
The main protagonists are all rather good eggs, and Celia is a somewhat annoying, wimpy female, typical of the genre, but they are all involving characters.
The village and the house are drawn with equal clarity. There is no vagueness of setting here.
It is a good detective yarn that passes away the time in pleasurable reading.
I miss the sharp detail of her historical novels, but it is a damn good read, old bean.
Not a bad plot but the writing had all the depth of the Famous Five out of Scooby Doo, and the main characters were all thoroughly unpleasant in their attitude to the local "yokels".
I persisted to the end, because I'm a big Heyer fan, mostly for her Georgian/Regency novels but I've enjoyed her other detective novels, and "Duplicate Death" is one of my all time favourite crime novels.
Not this one, sadly. I see from google that it was her first mystery novel and, happily, her technique improved. If this had been the first of her books I'd read, I'd never have read another.
With so many warnings about the dangers of remaining at the priory from so many different people, some, at least of the visitors start to wonder what is going on. Then the strange noises start and the spooky happenings such as a skull suddenly appearing out of a hidden cupboard and pictures falling off the wall and there are many discussions about returning to the safety of London. As ever with Georgette Heyer's novels the characters are believable and interesting - not to say eccentric. The dialogue is realistic and humorous at times and the plot is complex. Is the house really haunted - or is that what they're meant to think? Why did more than one person make enquiries about buying the house even though it is not for sale?
This is an entertaining read with a tightly plotted mystery at its core as well as a marvellously atmospheric house which is a character in its own right. I really enjoyed it and I think it is one I shall re-read many times.
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