Ringan Laine has a prized invitation to perform with his band at the Callowen House Arts Festival and he’s been asked to bring his longtime lover, actor-producer Penny Wintercraft-Hawkes, along as an honored guest. At the prestigious two-week annual festival, artists not only perform to a handpicked audience, but enjoy every luxury their host has to offer.
For Ringan and Penny, it’s a mixed blessing. The couple has already held two terrifying exorcisms for ghosts whose stories are told in songs, and Callowen House is known to be haunted by the pretty young wife of a seventeenth-century Leight-Arnold. A famous traditional song, “Matty Groves,” tells her story, a straightforward one that Miles Leight-Arnold is very proud of. Ringan and Penny decide to attend; after all, this story has no mystery for them to solve. But from the first night it becomes clear that the tragic Lady Susanna is not the only spirit haunting Callowen House. Something else is awake, moving through walls and nightmares, growing stronger as it feeds on Penn’s sensitivity and on the very fear it creates: Andrew Leight, a man as twisted and violent in death as he was in life. Lord Callowen insists that Ringan and Penny rid Callowen House of the dangerous Leight but leave Lady Susanna’s ghost untouched.
As the pair searches the mansion’s ancient ledgers, Ringan and Penny begin to suspect that Lady Susanna’s death was not as simple as the song suggests, and that the truth may expose a four-hundred-year-old lie.
The third entry in this series, Matty Groves is another bewitching tale of how mysteries thought dead and buried can still return to threaten the living.
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Deborah Grabien, a former resident of England, now lives with her husband in San Francisco, California.
Starred Review. In Grabien's third tale of ghostly detection (after 2004's The Famous Flower of Serving Men), her most chillingly effective performance to date, folk singer Ringan Laine and his group, Broomfield Hill, have been invited to perform at the prestigious Callowen Arts Festival at Callowen House in Hampshire, England. Accompanied by his longtime lover, actress Penelope Wintercraft-Hawkes, Ringan sets off in high spirits, but quickly strange things begin to happen. Jane Castle, vocalist and flautist for the group, has unsettling nightmares in her bedroom, while Penny and Ringan are deeply disturbed by some ghostly presence in theirs. Penny, Ringan and the others embark on a desperate race to uncover the truth about a vicious and malevolent ghost that haunts Callowen House. As in previous entries, a folk song, "Matty Groves," provides clues. Grabien ratchets up the suspense steadily and implacably, and the resolution is deeply satisfying. Fans of Barbara Michaels's classic ghostly suspense stories will enjoy this immensely.
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