I am a longtime Mary Stewart fan and am enjoying the delicious experience of re-reading her novels. In THE GABRIEL HOUNDS, 22 year old Christy is enjoying a group tour of the Middle East. Just before the tour ends, she runs into her second cousin Charles. They were raised together and have a lot of fondness for each other which is semi-romantic.
The trouble begins when they decide to visit their eccentric great Aunt Harriet who lives and dresses like a man in her palace in Lebanon. Aunt Harriet only contacts the family at holiday times to carry on about things and to issue a new copy of her will. She lives with several local servants and seems to try to be a living version of a legend.
Christy manages to get there first as Charles is delayed. With the help of a very kind driver named Hamid, she is able to force her way past the near mute old guy at the door who had orders to let no one in only to be further thwarted by the enigmatic John Lethman, who says he is Aunt Harriet's companion. He is very discouraging but finally tells her that her aunt gets up at midnight and is up all night long so maybe she can see her late.
Hamid only reluctantly leaves Christy there overnight. Is the Aunt Harriet she finally gets to see at midnight in a dark room and who speaks in a croaky whisper REALLY Aunt Harriet or an imposter? Christy hasn't seen her in 15 years and she looks and sounds like a man in disguise. Hearing that Charles wants to come to see her, "Aunt Harriet" refuses with no explanation and seems to want her out too. Funny, since just a couple of months earlier, she had personally invited Charles to come and stay and he had seen her recently as well.
Christy cannot leave the next day due to terrible flooding swelling the river but her cousin Charles (an expert climber) manages to climb over to her. He finds her story odd and is determined to get in to see for himself.
The story is an interesting one and there are other characters that bring even more intrigue. Why is the jealous, rude maid Halide wearing Aunt Harriet's favorite ruby ring that had been promised to Christy? Who does John go to meet mysteriously on the island in the middle of the night?
The descriptions are pure Mary Stewart detailed magic and evoke the essence of Lebanon until you can see and smell it for yourself. There are breakins, murders, kidnappings and more and they all end in a flash of fire dramatic ending. I recommend this!