A very short novella, scarcely longer than a short story, from a classic author who deserves rather more recognition than he has received.
It starts with a locked-room mystery. The narrator's uncle is accused of murdering a guest in his house but cannot be prosecuted because no one can see how the crime could have been committed.
Then the narrator's father dies and she is sent to live with her uncle who will be her guardian. He then proposes that she marries his brutish son. She realises that the pair are scheming to get their hands on her fortune ... and that the alternative might be to be murdered by them. And then one night ...
Rather neatly, the denouement of this clever book reveals the solution to the locked-room mystery.
This is stylish gothic romantic thriller fiction. Another of this author's work (A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family) is thought to have provided Charlotte Bronte with the 'mad woman in the attic' element of Jane Eyre.
Some memorable moments:
- "The door had been double locked upon the inside, in evidence of which the key still lay where it had been placed in the lock."
- "I have plucked the old baronet as never baronet was plucked before; I have scarce left him the stump of a quill."
- "having been, so far back as she could well recollect, always rather strict, as reformed rakes frequently become, he had latterly been growing more gloomily and sternly religious than heretofore."
- "he was a specimen of the idle, coarse-mannered, profligate 'squirearchy'."
- "I'm reckoned rather hard to please, and very hard to hit. I can't say when I was taken with a girl before, so you see fortune reserved me—." 'I'm a catch' is never the best start to a proposal.
- "such a consummation, though devoutedly to be wished, was hardly likely to occur" A nice quotation from Hamlet with a twist: the word being 'devoutedly'
Le Fanu describes one character as being like 'Sir Giles Overreach' a character in 'A New Way to Pay Old Debts' by Philip Massinger written c 1625
|This review was written|
by the author of Motherdarling