Tuesday, May 31, 2016

new ghostly gothic: That Which Was So Fair, by Tony Reynolds

MX Publishing, 2016
141 pp

Here it is a day away from June -- I read this book way back in April but time just hasn't really been my friend since the end of March. I'm still catching up on posting about books read back then -- sometimes time is just not my own, but I'm sure everyone has that sort of thing now and then.  Anyway, That Which Was So Fair was brought to my attention by its author, and the storyline seemed intriguing enough to merit buying a copy. In all truth, I was offered an e-copy but I'm a hold-the-book-in-my-hand sort of person so I bought mine.  It's a fun book -- absolutely perfect for a summer read, very short and very to the point while managing to be creepy enough to where a reader won't want to put it down.

The year is 1850, and everything starts when young Catherine leaves her family home to become governess to young Thomas Uttridge.  She is welcomed at Southwell Hall quite warmly by her new employer who is raising Thomas without benefit of a wife,  and soon our young heroine is quite involved with the household and especially with her young charge, and she looks forward to doing a good job.  Aside from the fact that there is no Mrs. Uttridge around, everything seems quite normal.  Soon though, Catherine begins to sense that something is a bit off, and her bizarre experiences (in some cases not shared by others in the same room!) lead her to try to figure out exactly what the heck is actually going on in this place.

That Which Was So Fair is styled as a Victorian ghost story with a very gothic flair, and to his credit, the author lays down atmosphere and a sense of reader unease from the beginning.  There are two ongoing mysteries that run throughout the novel (which I won't disclose) and there's a very nice sense of place and time to be found here.  The ghostly parts of this book are also downright creepy; every sort of off-kilter encounter whetted my appetite for more of the same.  At the same time, I do have to say that as a very well-seasoned, avid reader of mysteries, I figured things out long before the answers presented themselves. Other readers may not notice little things like I did, but it seemed to me that the author tended to give a bit  too much away, where in this case, less would definitely have been more.  Keeping back certain conversations, certain bits of information, etc., would have definitely ratcheted up the level of suspense.  I also think maybe a wee bit of editing would have helped a little in some cases here and there.   However, considering that this book hasn't been out very long, so far readers are loving it, so maybe my too-many-clues-given-away criticism is just uber-pickiness on my end.

This short novel would most definitely make for fine summer-reading material; it's a book anyone could let themselves be carried away by on a hot, sunny afternoon. But do what I did and read it at night -- much creepier that way!

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