Another contemporary gothic by Michaels (a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters, who already has some 20 similar novels to her credit) with enough of the elements of suspense, romance and comedy thrown into the pot to make it sufficiently spicy for the general-interest reader, as well as the spook-story maven. Like her last few effects (The Grey Beginning; Here I Stay), though, this while generally entertaining and colorful--is too talky and slow, all elaborate setup with too little in the way of scary plot. The heroine, Julie Newcomb, a smart, tough med student, finds herself corralled by her cousin Matt into acting as companion for their stroke-ridden grandmother, the aged autocrat Martha Carr, doyenne of the Tidewater, Virginia, plantation of Maidenwood--a plantation, of course, with a legend. It's supposedly the site of Maydon's Hundred, one of the earliest colonial settlements, destroyed so savagely in 1622 by Indians that it was never rebuilt; supposedly, also, where the pirate Blackbeard buried a treasure, and home of the beautiful Lady Jocelyn Cartwright, beloved of King James I. It turns out that an old beau of Julie's, Dr. Alan Petranek, an ambitious archaeologist, is summering at Maidenwood too, attempting to solve the mystery of two skeletons found fully dressed on a road nearby--a mother and infant, cause of death unknown, put there by vandals? By treasure-hunters? Or did the bones occultishly self-locomote? Old lady Cart would die if she knew about the skeletons or about Dr. Alan digging around the Maidenwood grounds, but Julie keeps her calm by reading aloud from Bleak House, and herself from dying of boredom by taking in a stray dog. She realizes gradually why she hates her grandmother when memories of childhood abuse at her hands return, and she finds herself drawn back into Dr. Alan's spell, not to mention into his work crew, when he convinces her to re-create the head of a victim found on the road from a cast of the skull. An intruder shatters her work-in-progress; then bedridden Martha walks, only to die shortly thereafter, and cousin Matt's caught in the family cemetery trying to hide what only he and Granny knew, that the skeletons are those of Martha's sister and niece, done in by darling Martha years ago. Too bad Michaels hasn't done more with her engaging setup and fully-capable-of-the-macabre east of characters; Martha especially seems more a black hole of a person than a bitter invalid. But this writer is ingenious, if a tad Nancy Drew-ish, and the book squeaks by with just enough fun to keep a reader going.