Good brother and bad brother feud on the fells.
Kate Mitchell takes a job as secretary to writer Maurice Rossiter, who lives with his brother Logan and three elderly uncles in a windswept house called Tor-Fret, known for years as the House of Men, since no female could stand its isolation or comprehend the dark doings and vicious quarrels that still seem to echo from every shadowy corner. Yes, the Rossiter men—excepting Logan—were and still are hard-drinking womanizers (the ragged lunatic who skulks around the house is none other than the by-blow of the brothers’ grandfather). Though blessed with masculine beauty, Maurice was always a twisted sort given to consorting with decadent poseurs. But since being stricken with polio, his chief pleasures are whining, driving the servants crazy, and conducting an illicit affair with Logan’s fiancée, Noreen Badcliff. Sharp-eyed Kate witnesses a tryst between the two at the river and looks away when they swim naked together. But who is the bald man watching from above through binoculars? And, later, how did Logan nearly break his neck when out for a walk on the misty fells? Logan, a redoubtable giant of a man, is apparently pretty easy to knock over and never even heard his lunatic half-brother sneaking up on him. Still, Kate falls madly in love with Logan when he rescues her from an assault by her former love Arthur. Her parents cluck and rub their hands, but she makes the long trek to Tor-Fret and finds a knack for overhearing the quarrels and mutterings of its inhabitants. Maurice’s deep dark secret and his reckless dalliance with Noreen lead to tragedy as Logan and Kate are overcome by a gang of village thugs in league with Maurice and left for dead. Yet the sun will rise on a new life for all—this being the late, ever-prolific Cookson.
Gothic goings-on served up without a trace of irony. (First published in England, 1963)