THE SIGN OF THE SERPENT by Sara Hely

THE SIGN OF THE SERPENT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hely (Legend of the Green Man) gives an attractive polish to some hoary romance/adventure ingredients here: a spunky governess; a sullen child reactivated; an apparently wicked employer, his very charming brother, whisperings of scandal--and sinister night noises surrounding a 19th-century Irish mansion. Caroline Morrisey has been forced into governess-drudgery since the bankruptcy and ""suicide"" of her gambling father; her twin brother Gilbert, suspected of killing an excise man, is a fugitive. And now unpleasant Mr. Rance, agent for Lord Hugo Vale (the very one whom Caroline and Gilbert believe responsible for their father's ruin!), threatens to expose Gilbert's whereabouts unless Caroline agrees to hire on as governess to widower Vale's child Jemima. So a puzzled Caroline arrives at Vale's estate of Mount Sweeney to find: Jemima, indeed a hellion, but soon brought to heel with attention and the rescue of a stray pup; and Vale's half-brother Richard, charming and supportive. Meanwhile, brother Gilbert surfaces, spilling the beans about a huge sum he's been promised to assassinate Vale--an offer whispered by the ""Serpent,"" an unseen presence encountered in one of Mount Sweeney's ancient crypts. Also meanwhile, Lord Vale himself is enchanted by prim governess Caroline, who wavers between repulsion and attraction. . . as Vale flickers between warmth and the icy disdain of one who could have--so the rumor goes--killed his wife Sybilla. And before the violent close and lovers' clinch, there are: many confusing revelations; murder in the crypt; abductions, knife-work, gunshots over a rocking boat; and multi-pronged tactics to expose the homicidal villain. A cheerful variation on a weathered plot--with a sensible heroine and just the right infusion of atmospheric murk.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's