A haunted house holds past secrets that endanger present visitors.
Americans Liz and Jack Harper are thrilled to inherit an old house in the tiny Shropshire town of Marston Lacy. They ask their British friend Michael Flint, a junior don at Oxford's Oriel College, to check it out. When Michael takes several pictures of the imposing structure, called Charect House, he's slightly unsettled by a figure he sees in an upper window. At this point, the diary accounts (circa 1988) of Dr. Alice Wilson, a Special Investigator for Psychic Research, begin to be woven into the narrative, along with the perspective of Nell West, a young widow new to Marston Lacy. Nell, who has a small antiques business in town, has been hired by the Harpers to help furnish the house. She visits Charect with her young daughter Beth, whom she has been careful to shield from the world. Upon discovering Wilson's diary, Nell learns that the house's name has been changed. Once Michael and Nell's paths cross, they begin a very muted flirtation. Beth begins having violent nightmares and one day vanishes from school. Beside herself, Nell rushes to the police station. At length, Michael finds a similar case from decades ago. Further research stretches all the way back to the late 19th century. Dark episodes from the past counterpoint Michael and Nell's present-day attempts to save Beth.
With this eighth novel (House of the Lost, 2010, etc.), which boasts a refreshingly retro flavor, Rayne spins eerie yarns within yarns like a latter-day Isak Dinesen or Wilkie Collins.