A haunted house that isn’t, a cousin who wasn’t, and a young woman lost somewhere between the two are the features of this moody, tricky midwestern tale, a debut in fiction from Williams (coauthor, Raising Lazarus, 1994). Kate Willoughby’s a quiet, serious girl, living alone with her mother in the mysterious limestone house built by her ancestor in a quietly prosperous town in southern Illinois. The family has cast long shadows over her, with her only brother dying in Vietnam and her father, like his father before him, killing himself, but Kate has plans to go away to college--until her mother also drops dead. Uncle Charlie and his two sons, a seldom-seen southern branch of the family, arrive to pay their respects and help her regain her balance, staying on for months; her older cousin Gilbert, purportedly a pianist, goes away for awhile, then returns more or less for good, and he and Kate become lovers. She relies on him to the point of believing she can’t live without him, even though she has cause to worry when he beats an old man to death for kicking their dog. What Kate doesn’t know is that Gilbert is also a cat burglar who’s been stealing the town blind while she sleeps. Shortly after she learns his secret, Gilbert eludes a close encounter with a shotgun, wielded by an irate victim, but missing his nose, and when the lovers go on the lam together so that he can have appropriate plastic surgery, she marries him out of desperation. The knot tied, Kate then learns more than she ever cared to know about “Uncle” Charlie, but with the knowledge comes a release, as Gilbert proves to be a Willoughby in spirit if not by blood. Good gothic gloom, though parts of the story are far-fetched, crossing over from the credibly ill-fated to the ludicrous.