Kirkus Star


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Skeletons keep bursting out of the closet in this intelligent gothic page-turner. Crane's genealogical mystery--more in the manner of Walpole than Holt--concerns the writing of a book. But there's no artsy pretense here, just elegant prose in the service of a modest concept: that being a historian often means acting the detective. Jason Glass, failed novelist and husband, proves to be an excellent biographer and lover, though it's the former skill which brings him to Loch Killian--the ancestral Scottish home of the Menzies clan--and the latter which keeps him there. The recent success of Gratuitous Glory, Glass's inspirational tale of one family's struggle during the American Civil War, makes this crack researcher the perfect candidate for crafting the saga of Robert Menzies, a doctor legendary for keeping his countrymen alive during the historic siege at Ladysmith, a pivotal episode in South Africa's Boer War. But Glass soon realizes there's something amiss in both the past and the present. Was Menzies a hero, or was he a traitor, as much of the evidence seems to suggest? Why is someone willing to kill in order to keep Glass from the truth about this supposedly long-gone Scotsman? And why is every female member of this ""peculiar lot"" eager to hit the hay with this strapping young Yank? The answers involve graveyards and madness, castles and incest, dungeons and revenge. Though the heart-pounding denouement on the fog-ridden heath leads to some necessarily ambiguous lessons, Glass can be certain of another bestseller. And the excerpts from that thoughtful book, as reproduced at length here, amount to a remarkable feat of imagination on the part of Crane. This semischolarly intrigue, with its innumerable twists and turns, demands attentive reading. But it's worth the effort.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Linden/Simon & Schuster