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Initially gripping, Erskine's follow-up to her successful Lady of Hay (1987) ultimately reads like a bad TV movie. British biographer Kate Kennedy rents a cottage in North Essex to write her new book and recover from a soured relationship with immature Jori Bevan. The landlord's son Greg, a talented painter frustrated by his lack of opportunity, is enraged when his parents rent ""his"" cottage to Kate. When doors start slamming, her computer goes haywire, and maggot-infested dirt piles appear in the cottage, Kate blames Greg. Meanwhile the tide and some digging by Greg's sister uncover a Roman/Druid grave that has lain untouched for centuries, releasing the ghosts of an ill-fated love triangle. This horror/thriller manages to work in a little bit of fascinating history about Boudicca, a Celtic warrior queen who rose against the Romans, and it offers some insight into Celtic/Roman relations. Erskine wisely shies away from the clichÉ of reincarnation, opting instead for demonic possession, but the three spirits illogically possess different people and wreak different levels of havoc. The author could have pumped new blood into this tired genre by further elaborating her theme of colonization, whether Londoners' gentrification of East Anglia or British authors' economic need to pander to an American market. Instead she just throws more players into the soup, including Kate's sister, the now remorseful Jon, an unhappy neighboring family, an unflappable taxi driver, and Kate's publisher. The array of threats from the ghosts would be truly frightening if any of the characters, live or dead, were properly developed. But they seem no brighter than mice in a maze; after almost 100 pages of mindless violence, the anti-climactic ending comes as absolutely no surprise. A near miss. Erskine clearly has some talent; with a little more thought -- and more historical research -- she could do something wonderful.

Pub Date: July 11th, 1994
ISBN: 1408498480
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Dutton