LULLABY by Diane Guest


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Guest's hard-cover debut--an off-the-rack nee-gothic ghost story with a few chills tucked inside. Guest puts a slight modern spin on her yarn by reversing traditional gothic sex roles. Here, it's a man (widowed Manhattan painter Judd Pauling, accompanied by daughters Emma, ten, and Addie, five), who travels with his exotic new wife, Rachel, to her isolated ancestral mansion (on the Maine coast)--in order to visit Rachel's dying mom, Priscilla. But the weird events that there disturb Judd and daughters--from Priscilla's coldness to Rachel's growing nervousness to menacing manifestations of what appears to be a little girl ghost--are strictly familiar stuff: especially familiar in one instance--as one night in bed, Emma finds that the hand she's holding belongs not to Addie, but to the ghost--because it echoes so strongly, unwittingly or not, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Guest tightens the suspense screws with vigor, though, as Judd learns not only that Rachel's a bigamist and former asylum patient, but that there is indeed a ghost haunting the mansion, one who--as Emma has claimed to deaf ears, but as we've seen in modestly spooky scenes set in a deserted nursery and elsewhere--has been periodically possessing Addie. At the climax, Judd learns from Priscilla that the ghost is Rachel's daughter, drowned years ago by the apparently quite mad Rachel while sailing--and that Rachel has now taken Addle--or is it the ghost?--out for a sail. . . Too old-fashioned--and obvious--for most tastes, but on a dark and stormy night it just might scare up a shiver or two.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1990
Publisher: Putnam