AMBERSTONE by Margaret James


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Less inventive than Marionette (1979), James' latest Victorian spooker is a cheery catchall of gothic clichÉs with disappointingly mundane solutions for everything at the close. When lovely, rich Lalage Ashmore hears that her cousin Prue is ailing, she hurries with motherly maid Madge down to Amberstone--manse of Prue's chilling husband Conan. And indeed Prue's a mess: she keeps seeing the ghost of Conan's first wife (who died in the local haunted pond), and Conan won't let her see her baby son, who's secreted away in the ""north wing."" Worse yet, Lalage seems to be catching Prue's symptoms: she has a heavy case of dÉjà, vu, is lustfully drawn to groping Conan against her will, gets bopped on the head, pays a creepy visit to the neighborhood Tarot crone, sees apparitions. . . and gets all shook up after finding a china doll where Prue's baby is supposed to be. And she's hardly comforted by the presence of childhood chum Gaston, a visitor to Amberstone (and possible heir to the place) who warns her to leave--especially when village-maiden bodies pop up in and around that nasty pond. Finally, there's a near-fatal showdown with the secret villainess, followed by 20 pages of elaborate explanations (drugs, aphrodisiacs, greed, multiple murders). All the standard ingredients--soft-boiled for quick, easy, but not particularly tasty consumption.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1980
Publisher: St. Martin's