Book Two of a haunted-house series set in 18th-century Sussex, England--and a livelier offering, with its generous helping of malevolent scheming, violent deaths and piracy on the high seas, than Watchman, the series opener. Jess Bayless, the entrepreneurial gypsy who started all the trouble when he built his house in a haunted glade, remains obsessed with his ghost-killed wife, Lavinia. His two children, Lawrence (by Lavinia) and Violet (issue of Jess' accidental coupling with his sister, Amy) have inherited mysterious powers from their dad: they can kill off foes with a Flaming Look and influence people with a single glance of their grey eyes. When Violet falls in love, Lawrence goes a bit mad with jealousy, flames her innocent suitor, then flees the family. He joins up with Thomas Benson, a member of Parliament, smuggler and pirate. Signed on as a lowly ship boy. Lawrence uses his persuasive eyes to earn quick promotions and a leading role in many of Benson's increasingly murderous enterprises. Back at home, Violet nurses her ailing father and epileptic mother until their respective ghastly ends; and has an electric encounter with an eligible widower, but their romance is threatened by stepped-up haunting: a back-from-the-future ""Watcher"" and a ferocious black stallion launch an all-out, if vaguely motivated, attack. Finlay's prose strains at times (""It was though there were something in the very heart of the House that reached out in hatred and took her soul, twisting it into a hideous distortion with a carnal pleasure that was almost tangible""), but her characters are appealing and her locale flavorful. Ultimately, though, the various ghosts parade their powers so flagrantly that there's little suspense here, little mystery and only the faintest shade of a creepy, spine-tingling yarn.
Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1986
Page Count: -
Publisher: Century Hutchinson--dist. by David & Charles