Nineteenth-century ghosts whose story is enshrined in a folk ballad haunt a British country cottage.
When a cash-flow problem prevents stuffy Scots land baron Albert Wychsale from paying laid-back Ringan Laine, musician and sometime carpenter, for renovation work to Wychsale House, Ringan, currently renting a London flat, accepts free lodging in the cottage and barn behind Wychsale House (called Lumbe’s) as payment. Blasts of cold air and other strange phenomena give Ringan pause, but not till arrival of his longtime ladylove Penny (a theatrical powerhouse who produces, directs, designs, and plays leading roles in her productions) and Jane (a fellow member of the Broomfield Hill Quartet) does he conclude that there’s a ghost or two in residence and begin to take action. Consulting local historical records, they find evidence of a horrible crime. In 1817, young George Roeper went berserk when he saw his sister Betsy spooning with local weaver Bill Corby and murdered both the lovers, she in the barn and he in the nearby river. The story of Betsy and Bill, which comes from a ballad the ghosts sing, provides a title, the first in a proposed series based on folk ballads.
Although unthreatening ghosts produce low-voltage thrills, pastoral warmth and sunny prose from Grabien (Plainsong, 2000, etc.) entertain.