Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels
Synopsis From Dust Jacket:
When young professor of English Karen Holloway happens on a privately printed volume of verse dating from the early nineteenth century, it's all in a day's work. But when a battered manuscript bearing the same mysterious attribution, "Ismene", turn ups, Karen realizes that it is an important discovery that could be the makin of her academic career.
Karen immerses herelf in a headlong search for the true identity of the unknown author, tracking the provenance of the manuscript to Virginia's historic Tidewater region. She is not alone in her quest; academic rivals shadow her steps, trying to gain possession of the valuable manuscript, and the locals are more inquisitive about her activities that seems natural.
Fortunately, Karen has the help of her eccentric and able mentor, Peggy, whos historical expertise proves to be invaluable. And, as she painstakingly deciphers the crabbed, charred pages, she begins to wonder whether she has the assistance of Ismene herself. Is the tale of Gothic horror that Ismene tells not a novel but a memoir, the very possession of which may jeopardize Karen's life? Ismene's legacy calls out from the past, form an eerie world fraught with terrifying impressions of fire and ice that will not die until the painful truths that inhabit the houses of stone are revealed.
This was my first Barbara Michaels book and I'm so mad at myself for not reading her earlier. This book hit all the right notes as far as atmosphere and character development. While I was reading the book I found myself getting lost in the serach for Ismene's real identity. I found myself jumping at the wailing heard in the woods, my heart started to beat a little faster when Karen's aparment caught fire and she had to jump for it. I anticipated every clue that Karen dug up about Ismene and her life and I cheered when she finally solved the identity of the author.
Barbara Michaels is a wonderfuly descriptive writer who manages to capture every nuance of a rundown manor house, the cut throat world of academia, and the all too difficult paths that two people can take to find eachother. The only quibble I have is that I found the ending rather rushed as if the author ran out of space to fully flesh it out. Overall though I found this to be a wonderfuly written mystery and I'm now a Barbara Michaels fan for life.
This will qualify for the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 sponsored by Carolyn of Book Chick City.