After two very different novels set in 16th century England, Maria McCann has something different again with her third; a gripping story of secrets an...moreAfter two very different novels set in 16th century England, Maria McCann has something different again with her third; a gripping story of secrets and lies, set some years later, in the 17th century.
It tells of two very different women.
Sophia Buller was the only child of a country gentleman. Her parents were eager to see her married, but they knew that their daughter was plain, they knew that she had an unfortunate ‘little weakness, and so they knew it wouldn’t be easy. But the handsome, charming Edward Zeeland began to pay court to Sophia; and when he proposed she was utterly thrilled. Married life was not what Sophia had hoped it would be. She found herself in a shabby house in an unfashionable district; her husband was away for most of time, leaving her stranded at home with uncommunicative servants; and when he was home Edward wasn’t the husband she had hoped her would be, expected he would be, at all.
Betsy-Ann Blore had a very different life. She had been a prostitute, but she had managed to establish herself as a buyer and seller of …. well lets say second-hand good. Sam, her husband, was a cardsharp, but he had run into trouble, and so he joined up with Betsy-Ann’s brother Harry and his crew of resurrectionists. He hated it; he drank and he sank into depression. She hated it too and, though she could see no way out of their situation, she held on to hope; she practiced the skills of a cardsharp, and she dreamed of Ned Hartry, the handsome, charming scourge of the card-tables, and the greatest love of her life.
The two stories are very different, and the differing styles, the differing use of language – as different as the two women – is very, very effective. Two lives, lived very differently, in the same time, in the same time came to life, and the world about them, rich with detail, was so wonderfully. Everything lived and breathed, it really did.
At first I found it easier to empathise with Sophia, who was so naïve in so many ways, and who was so very unprepared for what was to happen, but the more I read the more I warmed to Betsy-Ann who had such spirit, who did everything she could to improve her situation. It wasn’t easy, and the difficulties, the restrictions, faced by women in the 17th century were clearly illuminated.
There was a moment when Sophia compared her situation to that of Clarissa Harlowe – and she was right, though I should say that this is a very different story,
The plot was very cleverly constructed, and it moved apace – everything I learned about Sophia and about Betsy-Anne I learned on the fly – and that kept the focus on the story and not the period details, wonderful though they were.
The two stories are linked – of course they are – and they come together beautifully in the latter part of the book. And there’s another strand too, the story of Fortunate, a young slave in the Zedland household. There he’s renamed Lucius, and later in the story he is known as Lucky. His different names – and his descriptive names for others around him – highlight the themes of identity, disguise and self-determination that underpin the story. And, though his story is a little underdeveloped her has a significant part to play.
Though the story had weaknesses – the pace dipped in one or two places, Sophia’s ‘little weakness’ was a needless distraction, and the ending was a little too neat – it was compelling, it was vivid, and I was swept along.
And I’d say that ‘Ace, King, Knave’ worked as a historical entertainment, and it worked as a thought-provoking, serious study of the period too.
I wonder what Maria McCann will write next … (less)
‘Touch and Go’ was published in 1995, by Black Swan, and I suspect that if I had seen in back then, in a bookshop or in the library, I would have pass...more‘Touch and Go’ was published in 1995, by Black Swan, and I suspect that if I had seen in back then, in a bookshop or in the library, I would have passed it by, seeing a cover that suggested it was probably just another ‘aga saga.’ I remember that Black Swan published a lot of those sort of books …..
But since 1995 I have seen Persephone Books reissue Elizabeth Berridge’s wartime short stories, I have seen Faber Finds reissue a number of her post-war novels, and so, of course, when I spotted a copy of that paperback book from 1995 I reached out for it.
I did find a hint of the ‘aga saga’ – and two agas in the first chapter – but I found much more, and I found qualities that elevated this book above many similar works.
Emma was at the centre of the story. She was nearly forty and she was nearly alone: she was newly divorced, her daughter was travelling the world in her gap year, and her mother was dealing with widowhood by filling her life with journeys and activities. And so when Emma was, quite unexpectedly, left a house in the Welsh border country – in the village where she had grown up – she decided to move there, to start a new chapter in her life.
That chapter came about as the result of a childhood illness. The local doctor had asked Emma what she would like as a treat, and she told him that she would love his shell house. He admired her taste, he told her that it would be hers one day, and he kept his word; years later he left her the shell house and the house in which it stood. That made me think a little of another book where a legacy leads to a new life – Elizabeth Goudge’s ‘The Scent of Water’ – but I was soon to find myself drawn into a very different story.
I watched Emma meeting old friends, and others she had known as a child; I watched her settle into a new way of life; and I watched her putting so much energy into that art that was her livelihood, and into restoring her somewhat dilapidated inheritance. There were moments when I thought that everything was falling into place rather easily, but the author’s wonderful understanding of the world she was writing about, of her characters and their relationships and interactions, and the beauty of her prose, made that seem unimportant. Sometimes in life things do work out nicely, and Emma did have concerns about how her daughter was coping, so far away from home, and about her mother.
One incident – a burglary at Emma’s London flat – changed the story, and took it to another level. Emma went back to London, and when she contacted her estranged husband to tell him that some of his possessions had been lost, the response made her realise that her marriage was truly over, and that she was glad. She couldn’t stay in the flat, and so she went to stay with her mother.
The story of Emma’s mother, Adela, was quietly heart-breaking. Adela’s marriage had been happy and strong, but since her husband’s death she was struggling with a future that she hadn’t planned for, that she didn’t want. She knew she had to make changes, but she wanted things to stay as they were; she was troubled but she knew that she had to keep going, that she had to so the right thing. I saw elements of my mother in Adela, and I was sorry that maybe she was so very real, so very alive, because Elizabeth Berridge became a widow a few years before this book was published.
Emma and Adela came to understand each other a little better; Adela gained strength from being needed as a mother, and she helped Emma to come to terms with her relationship with her absent daughter, Charlotte. There were some wonderful moments, some happy and some sad, and I was particularly taken with Adela’s perception of Emma’s situation.
Emma persuaded Adela to come to Wales with her for Christmas, but she didn’t quite realise how difficult that would be, that Adela’s life as a young mother in the same place that she lived now had not been quite as simple as she thought.
The later chapters of ‘Touch and Go’ work quite beautifully as a study of mothers and daughters, of love and loss. I was sorry that there were distractions from that story – a little too much country life, one or two loose or undeveloped plotlines – because they made a story that was both beautiful and profound feel just a little fuzzy.
‘Touch and Go’ was Elizabeth Berridge’s last book, and though it has weaknesses that detract only a little from a very fine novel. And a final novel this good leaves me eager to read her earlier novels, and her short stories. (less)
The title is big, the author’s name is long, but this is a lovely little book.
And it’s a story of sisters, written and set at the very start of the tw...moreThe title is big, the author’s name is long, but this is a lovely little book.
And it’s a story of sisters, written and set at the very start of the twentieth century. There are four of them – Philippa, Theo, Hope and Madge – and they are facing an uncertain future. Their father was dead and, although he had been a genius, although he left the world books, songs, poems, and paintings, he did not leave a great deal of his money.
Their uncle counselled caution, explaining that if they were careful they could preserve their capital, and they could live quietly on the interest until husbands came along. It would be the sensible, conventional thing to do, but Philippa – as spokeswoman – told her uncle that a different plan was being put in place.
The family – the four girls; their elder brother, Steve; and their younger brother, Barney – was going to let the family home, move to London, and use their capital to develop their talents, so that they could support themselves by their own efforts. •Steve worked for a solicitor, and he had already been offered a job in a London office. •Philippa, whose talents were in the domestic sphere, would keep house. •Theo was a musician and she would write and sell songs, and accompany the performers. •Hope had been writing stories since she was ten years old, and she knew she could polish them and sell them to magazines. •Marge was an artist, and she would go to art school and investigate commercial art. •And Barney would leave school and go out to work.
They knew that they might not succeed, but they knew that they had to try. And so the family moved to a London flat, to live in genteel poverty, and all kinds of adventures ensued.
Mrs GDVH proved herself to be a very fine storyteller, and she drew the sisters beautifully. They were all different, and yet they had things in common, they weren’t too different. And the relationships between them, for good and for bad, were utterly believable.
Philippa was sensible and practical, but she struggled in stressful situations and needed her sisters to help her through; Theo was the confident one, the one who went out and made things happen; Hope was quiet and thoughtful, doing her best to support her sisters, while she pursued her own goals; and Marge was the bright bubbly sister, determined to hold things together and to sell her art and pay her way.
They all had their ups and downs, and it was lovely to watch them. I was drawn into their home and into their lives, because so many moments, so many details, were captured so beautifully.
I loved the supporting characters they drew into their story: the ageing songstress, who might or not prove to have a heart of gold; the neighbour upset by the noise of music and drama practice who Philippa had to win over; cousin Avice, who was rather bored with life until Theo shook things up …
But I do wish as much attention had been paid to the two brothers. Steve went to work and came home and was only allowed into the story when a man of the house was needed, and Barney was rather a stock troublesome younger brother, though, to be fair, he did get his own storyline in the end.
The plot worked very well, as an entertainment, an upbeat story of bright young women in Edwardian England. Nothing more and nothing less.
But things went wrong at the end. Two things happened that seemed out of place. Philippa prayed in the night, confident that her prayers would be answered, and the perspective changed for just a moment, to Hope as an established author, looking back at her early efforts. And then when it seemed the story was drawing to a close – with an engagement, with travel plans being made, with another romance about to flower – it was suddenly wound up. It didn’t feel quite finished, but the story was over.
That was disappointing, but I loved 90% of the book and I am definitely going to read more of Mrs GDVH’s many books, when I’m looking for nice, girly, Edwardian entertainment. (less)
It seemed almost too perfect - the childhood memories of a beloved illustrator and author of books mostly for children, packed full of pictures.
I aspi...moreIt seemed almost too perfect - the childhood memories of a beloved illustrator and author of books mostly for children, packed full of pictures.
I aspired to a Slightly Foxed edition, but settled for an older copy from my library's central stock.
"I was born, the eldest of five children, on 16th October 1900 in the town of Haiphong in the province of Tonkin..."
... but when he was five his mother brought young Edward home to England, to live with his grandmother. His father remained at a distance, influencing events without ever being part of them, but it didn't seem to cast a shadow over an idyllic childhood. It was lovely to read simple accounts of family life, visits to the country, and boyish high jinks.
Boarding school was a less happy experience, because, though there were some wonderful memories of rags and adventure, there were darker memories of bullying and of not quite finding the right niche.
School stories and holiday stories balanced each other beautifully, and they were followed by stories of military recruitment - unsuccessful - then work as a clerk - deadly dull - until realisation dawned that art could be a career.
It was the right niche, and I wold have loved to know a little more, but it was there that the story ended.
The pictures in words were lovely, and the sketches, so distinctively Ardizzone echoed them beautifully. But there were only hints of emotions, because this is a book of memories as pictures. And, as that, it works beautifully.
But this isn't a book to explain, it's a book to love for what it is.
And so here are some of those words and pictures,
"There was something splendid and noble about riding in the wagonette. It was so high that we could look over the hedges to the fields beyond; we felt like lords of the countryside surveying our domain. As we rode we sucked, in rather unlordly fashion, enormous bull's eyes, called humbugs and were all very jolly. In fact we must have been a jolly sight. The girls were dressed in cotton frocks and sunbonnets, the boys in sailor suits and big straw hats, while the ladies wore the big hats and high-necked blouses of the period."
"In the afternoons my mother would lie with her feet up on the drawing room sofa and read to us. Her favourite reading was from Dickens and his work was a favourite of our to listen to. I think my mother must have judiciously cut out large chunks from the text to speed the action. Certainly we were never bored by these readings, quite the reverse. We adored them and adored most of all the sentimental bits. I doubt of any of us, my mother included, were quite dry-eyed at the death of little Paul Dombey."
"In the passenger seat was a stout lady, well veiled against the dust, and beside her a very large Pekinese. Now the lady was a certain Mrs Chapman who at the time reigned supreme as the Mayor of Worthing. In the speed and wit of her repartee she was a match even for my grandmother. At her home she kept many big Pekinese like the one she had brought with her. It is rumoured that once she hunted the Pekes in a pack, as if they were beagle. I would not have put it past her."
"I tried hard to do the right thing but failed. This unhappy situation drove me to take refuge in painting and drawing, a hobby already, but even more so now. I lost myself in hours of doodling, making up odd monsters, caricaturing boys and masters and inventing strange landscapes. During free time in fine weather I would be out and about attempting to draw the local landscape, in particular its trees. I was, of course, an active member of the art class run by Miss Annie Hazeldene. And, looking back, I realise I owe much to her."(less)
I have had it in mind for a long time that I would re-read ‘The Sunne in Splendour’ one day. It wasn’t quite the first historical novel I read, but it...moreI have had it in mind for a long time that I would re-read ‘The Sunne in Splendour’ one day. It wasn’t quite the first historical novel I read, but it was one of the first; it was the book that made me realise that made me realise that research and writing could be brought together to make history live and breathe, it was the book that made me understand the consequences of history being written by the victors, and it was the book that was the first step on a particular reading journey.
I hadn’t intended to re-read it this year, but I spotted a beautiful thirtieth anniversary edition in the library. I didn’t take it home straight away, but when it was still sitting on the new books shelf a week later, when I had realised that it could fit into my century of books, I had to bring it home.
The first time around I came to the ’The Sunne in Splendour’ knowing next to nothing about Richard III or his times, or about the stories created by the Tudors after they brought his reign to and end, but what I read about his world, his life, his times, made perfect sense. I’ve read and learned more since, but it still makes sense, and I believe in this Richard, a fundamentally decent man who made mistakes.
The story begins with Richard as a small child and follows him through the course of his life, in exile when the House of Lancaster is in the ascendancy, and at court when the House of York rises. He becomes a formidable battlefield commander; he becomes a trusted lieutenant of the brother, Edward IV; he becomes the husband of Anne Neville, daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker, who he has loved since child; and eventually, of course, he comes king.
It is wonderfully effective, and utterly gripping, because it is told as a human story. Characters, so many characters, are clearly defined and utterly believable, and though some were friends and some were enemies, they were all credible, all understandable. I saw their relationships, their ambitions, their actions, and I saw the consequences. The Wars of the Roses are complex, and there are many battles, plots and intrigues, but even first time around when I knew little more than who the two sides were I had no trouble at all following what was going on.
The perspective moves between a number of key figures, some seen in the foreground and some remaining in the background. That was so effective, and it gave the story real depth. Richard is often in the background , but he remains at the centre of the story as he is seen through the eyes of his family, friends and enemies. Much time is given to the relationship between Richard and Anne, which is a lovely counterpoint to the action and intrigue, but a little over-romanticised. The relationships between Richard and his brothers, Edward IV and George duke of Clarence were far more interesting, all three were fascinating characters, and I was fascinated between the likenesses and the differences of the three brothers.
The story loses something when first George and the Edward meet their fates.
The key test of a book like this is how it deals with the big questions. The biggest question, of course, is the fate of the Princes of the Tower. The way is was dealt with here was utterly plausible, and the answers to the smaller questions were equally plausible. And there were no heroes and villains; just men and women driven by a sense of what was right and there were men and women driven by ambition.
That is a wonderful achievement, but it is the human story that makes ‘The Sunne in Splendour’ sing, and that called me back to the book. My heart rose and fell so many times, and it broke at the end, when Richard had to go into battle to repel Henry Tudor’s invasion after he had lost first his son and heir and then his beloved wife.
I knew what the outcome would be, but I found it difficult to keep turning the pages.
And it may be some time before I can read any Tudor history … (less)
I loved Emylia Hall’s first novel, The Book of Summers, so I was always going to be looking out for more of her writing, but I suspect that a lovely t...moreI loved Emylia Hall’s first novel, The Book of Summers, so I was always going to be looking out for more of her writing, but I suspect that a lovely title, a beautiful cover, and an intriguing title would have pulled me into this, her second novel, even if I’d had no idea who she was.
This is Hadley’s story. She was in her first year at university, still living at home, and shed had a smooth passage through life. She was bright, she was pretty, she was bookish and she came from a happy family. But she was beginning to realise how much the world had to offer, and she seized the chance of a year studying in the Swiss city of Lausanne.
Hadley was captivated by the city, by the student community, by the books she was studying; and she formed a close friendship with Kristina, a Danish student who was just a little more sophisticated than her.
The early part of the story was quiet and uneventful, but it was lovely. Emylia Hall writes beautifully and she brought the city to life. I saw the people, the places, the lake, the mountains; I saw everything so clearly through Hadley’s eyes. And I felt her curiosity, her excitement, her realisation that life was full of possibilities.
I loved the friendship between Hadley and Kristina; I loved Hadley’s chats with an elderly writer she met on her first night in the city, they were a lovely counterpoint to the main storyline; and I loved the way she fell in love with the books she read as she studied the lost generation.
Hadley was devastated when Kristina was killed, in an accident that seemed quite inexplicable. As she struggles to cope with the first loss of her life she realises just how alone she is, without her family and so far away from home. Looking for support, she leans on her American literature professor. He helps her to uncover the events that led to Kristina’s death, and they become close; maybe too close …
The story was simple, and a little predictable, but that really didn’t matter, because it was emotionally pitch-perfect. Hadley’s complecx emotions; her friends’ reactions; her parents response, when she tells then what happened. They were all caught beautifully, but I was particularly taken with Hadley’s parents, who loved her, who wanted to protect her, but who knew it was time for her to grow up.
That might be because I’m from their generation, and I suspect that this book might speak more profoundly to readers nearer Hadley’s age.
But that’s not to say that I didn’t find many things to love. I loved the way I was transported to a city I’d never visited and that I now feel I know do well. I loved the way I was reminded of what it was like to be part of a group of students, at that wonderful point in life. And I loved watching Hadley learn and grow.
I’m inclined to call ‘A Heart Bent Out of Shape’ a lovely light read, with serious underpinnings ….. (less)
I knew the names, the author and the book, but for a very long time this was one of the books that was out there in the world but nothing to do with m...moreI knew the names, the author and the book, but for a very long time this was one of the books that was out there in the world but nothing to do with me. Because there are only so many books that one person can read in a single lifetime, and because nothing that I read or heard offered anything that said it was a book for me.
But maybe this book and I were destined to meet. When I complained that I couldn’t find a book from 1979 to read for my Century of Books, ‘If on a winter’s Night …’ received two very warm endorsements. Enthused, I went straight to my library’s website and placed an order. And then, just days after I picked up the book, I discovered that a readalong was about to begin .....
Now that I’ve turned the last page and put the book down I can safely say that this is an extraordinary book, that is like nothing else I have ever read. There were moments when I wanted to hug the book and there were moments when I wanted to hurl it at the wall.
I was disconcerted to find that the first chapter was written in the second person, that it addressed a reader reaching out for a much wanted new book … and that the book in question was ‘If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller’ by Italo Calvino. Yes, I was disconcerted, but I was quickly swept away by the magic that the words wove. The words were lovely, I felt that a tide was rising and falling, and the love of words, of writing, of reading, of handling books shone from the page so very, very brightly.
An intriguing story began in the next chapter, and the chapter after that came back again to address the reader searching for the right book, and searching for understanding of the writer and his writing. And the story kept bouncing back and forth. Reader. Story. Reader. Story. Reader. Story …..
I started going back and forth too, happy to read the wonderful words addressed first to one and then to two readers over and over again, and trying to work out how the different chapters of the story fitted together. I couldn’t make the pieces fit together, but in time I learned that I wasn’t meant to. I was reading openings, turning points, from a wealth of different stories.
It was strange that I kept turning the pages when I realised that, but there were so many styles, so many flourishes, so many things to captivate me. So many beginnings that could have grown into something more were cut off. It was maddening, but I realised that I had to keep reading, and that I had found a book that told me more clearly than any before that I was a reader, always in search of a story.
The story of the readers became stranger as it advanced, the shifts in style became more noticeable, and yet I felt I was in safe hands. The love words and books, reading and writing, continue to shine. And the book somehow, I can’t quite explain how, pulled that love back from me. That is such clever, clever writing.
But I can’t quite find the words, I can’t quite make a whole out of this book, and that’s what makes it maddening.
I suspect that I might need to read it again, but for now I’m glad I read it and I’m glad I came to the end. (less)
The cover was striking, but it gave me no clue to the extraordinary mixture that I would find inside th...moreCould you resist a title like that? I couldn't!
The cover was striking, but it gave me no clue to the extraordinary mixture that I would find inside this little book from the 1930s. It began as a social satire, it showed signs of becoming a dystopian novel, it became a police procedural for quite some time, and as the end drew near it turned into a horror story. All of the elements were familiar, but not all in the same book. The combination isn't wholly successful, but the story is irresistible.
The duchess is Mary Dove, widow of the third Duke of Dove and Oldham, and she is as good as she is beautiful. She lived quietly, spending her days doing good works, and her evenings at home with her companion, a poor relation taken under her wing. This was explained so carefully, with such loving detail, that I couldn't help but be charmed by Mary Dove.
I found that her home was an oasis of calm in a deeply troubled London. In 1938 - a few years after this little book was published - the city was wracked by unemployment, social change, political demonstrations; and Winston Churchill, had been forced into a coalition with Oswald Moseley.
It was against this background that the 'Jane the Ripper' murders began: a killer believed to be female, young, and maybe foreign, was killing men in ways that became increasingly bizarre. Mary Dove became the prime suspect; it seemed ridiculous, it seemed impossible, but the evidence was compelling.
The police were incredulous; they thought there might be a communist plot to discredit the aristocracy, the wondered if the duchess might have been drugged or hypnotised, they wondered if something was amiss in their household. But they didn't arrest her; instead they put arrangement in place for the duchess, who was deeply distressed by everything that was happening around her, to be sent to a nursing home where she would be carefully and discreetly guarded.
There was rioting in the streets when the news broke that the prime suspect had not been arrested.
Meanwhile, the police followed a trail of evidence to an extraordinary conclusion.
Hell! Said the Duchess is a very readable book. I've never read anything like it before, and I think it's reasonably safe to say that I never will again. The contrast of the light social satire and the darker elements is oddly effective, and there are some lovely details along the way
But some elements work better than others, and I couldn't help thinking of certain contemporaries of Michael Arlen's who could have dealt with each aspect of the story a little better. Though I doubt that any of them could have handled them all, or thought of putting them all together to such fine effect.
I can't say that this is a great book, but I can definitely say that it was a wonderful entertainment and that I'm very pleased that it's back in print.(less)
Now is a strange concoction, but it is utterly perfect for this Halloween…
Imagine, if you will, two sisters living and working in a village not so ver...moreNow is a strange concoction, but it is utterly perfect for this Halloween…
Imagine, if you will, two sisters living and working in a village not so very far from London. They both liked good food, strong drink and nights out, but their chocolate shop was never going to fund the lifestyle they wanted. In fact, they could barely make ends meet, and so they agreed that it was time for a change. Maggie, the leader of the pair, suggested that what Blackheath needed was a curtain shop, but Judy told her that as the chocolate shop had been Maggie’s idea it was her turn to make the decision, and she was going to open a séance parlour.
The sisters did not agree, but in the end Judy got her way; she recruited Mrs Nettie Walters, an ageing medium, she painted everything black, and the Blackheath Séance Parlour opened for business.
Their timing was not good – they opened for business on the day of the funeral of the most recent victim of a murderer who had been preying on women on the nearby heath – but after raising their eyebrows in disapproval curiosity got the better of the local population. They were impressed, and the news spread quickly and soon people were coming from far and wide, to have their tea leaves read, to discover what the crystal ball saw in their future, and to take part in séances. The Blackheath Séance Parlour became ridiculously successful. But success did not bring happiness. It brought new pressures, and the three women had different concerns, different hopes for the future, so soon jealousies, resentments and recriminations came to the surface.
Nettie came face to face with the past she hoped was gone and forgotten, Judy found a publisher for her gothic novel and found that it brought her more notoriety, and after a slow start Maggie found that the séance business rather suited her, only to be horribly tricked.
Take all of that, plus a novel within a novel – Judy’s wonderfully gruesome ‘penny dreadful’ – and you have a heck of a lot going on. But it works!
The characters lived and breathed, their world was quite perfectly realised, the atmosphere was so very dark and sinister, and there was always something that made me want to keep turning the pages. The story was played completely straight – there was no explaining away of the supernatural elements – it was lightened with well judged dashes of humour and wit, and it was told with such verve.
There were some magnificent set pieces, there was high drama, but ultimately this is a very human story that works because the relationships, characters and stories of the three women were so very well drawn, and so horribly believable. And because the story plays out exactly as it should, without ever becoming predictable.
I was a little disappointed there were moments when the story drifted a little, and that there were moments when things went a little over the top. Though I should say that I think that’s due to my sensitivities being a little more delicate than those of the author, and not because he has done anything wrong.
Those things made me pause, but I was never going to let go of this story. The mixture of the gothic and the historical, of mystery and horror, was unusual but it was very, very effective. (less)