History and mystery are engagingly blended in British author Mosse’s bulky successor to Labyrinth (2006).
Like its predecessor, this book is set in provincial southwestern France’s Pyrenees Mountains—this time, near the village of Renne-les-Bains (a nod to The Da Vinci Code)—and it tells two stories, which occur more than 100 years apart and occupy parallel narratives. In 1891, teenaged Parisienne Léonie Vernier accompanies her older brother Anatole to the lavish estate (Domain de la Cade) located in the aforementioned area, for the funeral of their aunt Isolde’s husband. Anatole’s motives are mixed (no surprise, as their aunt is young and beautiful). There local rumors surface that the deceased had unwisely “raised” Satan by means of a notorious spell. (Tarot cards become involved, and Mosse treats us to an entertaining crash course in their provenance and subtleties.) In a second, contemporary narrative, Meredith Martin, a graduate student in music, arrives at the same village, to research her biography of Claude Debussy (who had resided in the very Parisian apartment building that housed the Verniers)—and she too is drawn into the Domain’s lurid history, and specifically to the forest habitation denoted by Mosse’s title, once inhabited by invading Visigoths. Complications multiply exponentially and agreeably, and both heroines’ misadventures climax, smashingly, on All Souls’ Night. Mosse again proves herself a demon researcher (so to speak), and her novel’s rich brew of supernaturalism and intrigue is tasty indeed—betted by such vividly drawn stock figures as a minor character (borrowed from Labyrinth) who knows all the region’s darkest secrets, and a moribund gardener who mutters dark prophecies as alarmingly as did the late, great, weird film actress Maria Ouspenskaya.
Superior hugger-mugger from an impressive new mistress of the genre.