I read this beautifully stormy dark gothic mystery while perched high up on the edge of my seat. A dreadful fire has haunted Ivy for years, she mourns two deaths, and now seeks the truth. Beth Underdown’s debut The Witchfinder's Sister was a bestseller and winner of the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award 2017, this is her second novel and it more than lived up to my expectations. The two time frames, sitting either side of the First World War, are initially fractured before they gradually fuze together. Information dripped and then seeped into the pages before hiding in my thoughts. The story is secretive, occasionally sullen as it begins to unfurl. Cornwall, and the house in particular cast a brooding presence which adds to the intensity of this tale. The characters are perfectly imperfect, trust is a scare commodity, and each casts a deep shadow. I was held in limbo while I read, totally immersed in the writing. Expressively powerful The Key in the Lock thrills and chills in equal measure. Chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month and LoveReading Star Book, this historical mystery is a worthy contender for the very top of your reading list.
Fabulously inventive, and laced with evocative detail and intrigue, Clio Velentza’s The Piano Room boasts bite and a beautifully crafted plot. Taking inspiration from the timeless tale of Faust, this keenly accomplished debut sees an entitled young man make a deal with the devil in order to forge his own destiny, so intense is his desire to renounce the weight of his family’s musical genius. Sandor Esterhazy comes from a long line of formidably talented pianists. His family are also immensely wealthy - his father, for example, dresses in embroidered slippers, shiny tuxedoes, and soft leather gloves; the opulence and elegance of his background are tangible. Sandor, on the other hand, seems cut from a different cloth - “There was no spirit to his music: instead of rising into the air with warmth and spice, the melody clambered out of the instrument and lay on the floor like a lifeless thing.” And so Sandor decides to summon the devil himself to escape his fate. Relieved when nothing happens (“I’m such an idiot. It was all a joke. It’s all right. It’s over”), he’s overwhelmed when the devil later appears and promises, in return for his soul, that Sandor “will be free to lead the life you choose rather than the one laid out for you.” Sandor is left with a mysterious creature, Ferdi, whom he locks in his basement piano room, for a time at least. Exploring self-determination and what it is to be human with wit, delicious gothic atmosphere and a compelling sense of ennui, The Piano Room is an immersive joy.
She chose to die. Now she chooses to live. And love. BUT HER SPIRIT HAS BEEN CLAIMED BY A DARK PRESENCE. Sarah Vise's life is a literal dead-end street. Abandoned by her mother as a child, she lives on a coastal road to nowhere, working endless hours on her domineering father's fishing boat in the shadow of a run-down lighthouse. As her high school graduation approaches, the end of the relentless monotony seems to be on the horizon. She is accepted into college and has an intriguing encounter with Grant Eriksen, the tall, blue-eyed neighbor who appears intent on making amends for past mistakes. But when Sarah's father forbids her from going away to college, she is forced to face a future without hope. Sarah decides to surrender her life to the sea. Grant saves her from drowning, but that night her weakened spirit is carried to a dreamy afterlife world, where a handsome hunter-sage takes her under his wing. Sarah is happy to remain with him until she learns he is even more possessive and dangerous than the men in her "real" life. To escape his clutches, she makes a terrible bargain. He will return her to the life she now so desperately desires. She will be free to follow her heart, but only for a while. The clock is ticking. Once she fulfills her end of the bargain, he will steal her spirit again. Forever.
The acclaimed author of Gods of Jade and Shadow returns with a mesmerising feminist re-imagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico. He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemi. You have to save me. When glamorous socialite Noemi Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it's clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but her claims that her husband is poisoning her and her visions of restless ghosts seem remarkable, even for her. Noemi's more suited to cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing, but she heads immediately to High Place, a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside, determined to discover what is so affecting her cousin. She's tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin's new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who is fascinated by Noemi; and not of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi's dreams with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family's youngest son. Shy and gentle, he wants to help - but he might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family's past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family's once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemi digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. And Noemi, mesmerised by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to leave this enigmatic house behind . . .