Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.
At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.
For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . . .
Thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for organising this blog tour and to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this novel.
I was very worried I wouldn’t get this book finished, I have a very heavy schedule for September, October and November, as well as working on my re-writes, but I needn’t have. My goodness me, what a ride! I sat down Tuesday morning to make some progress before going to Lincoln for a public lecture about the outer solar system and looked up three hours later 50 pages from the end (the book is 417 pages long) because there was a knock at the door.
I really enjoyed the slow build as the spy thriller merged into mystery in the Golden Age tradition (isolated country house, aristocratic guests, outsider investigator) into a ghost story and then back. I had to find out who the hidden man was, although I started to guess at around the same time Donovan found the brass button. It was riveting. The mystery of who was leaking weapons to the enemy, the murders, the tunnels, Kate and Donovan’s developing relationship. Oh, it was all so energising and thrilling, to paraphrase Kate’s description of Donavan’s driving. This is a proper ‘blustery autumn day, snuggle up in the blankets and settle in’ novel. The setting of a storm swept island, haunted by thousands of years of ghosts, the painful war as the background, a mystery to solve. It’s all so delicious.
And the writing! It flowed, it purred with life. I could feel the storm, the terror as the marching ghosts headed in to the cellars, Donavan’s desperation to prevent more attacks. The character development, the slow revelation of their connections to each other, the past and events that each wants to be forgotten or avenged, builds like the tension as the pages pass. It’s a steady build of revelation, confusion and tension and then truth emerging. I wish I wrote so well.
Perfect, absolutely perfect, a proper ghost story.