Thursday, 27 October 2011

House of Echoes - Barbara Erskine

If you love books that are a bit scary, have a historical twist and throw in a bit of romance too, then Barbara Erskine is the writer for you. House of Echoes introduces us to Joss Grant, her husband Luke and their toddler son Tom.  Their lives have just been nearly destroyed by the dirty dealings of Luke's business partner, when fate throws them a curve ball as Joss discovers she has inherited a large, dilapidated house called Belheddon Hall from a mother that she had never met.  Joss had always known that she had been adopted, but knew nothing about her family history, or why her mother had given her away as an infant.

The Grants are forced to sell their London home, so inheriting Belheddon Hall is a lifeline for them, allowing Luke to start a car restoration business in the old stables and giving Joss the chance to start renovating the old building and start writing a novel.  But while all old buildings have their shadows and legends attached to them, Belheddon Hall seems to have more than its share of mysteries.  Almost as soon as they move in, Joss can sense someone watching her and sees shadowy forms out of the corner of her eye.  She also hears children laughing and calling to each other in the house and gardens, which at first she writes off as village children having a lark, but becomes more spooked when she discovers that the names being called are those of her two dead brothers that before she had never known existed.

The stress starts telling on Joss when baby Tom starts having nightmares and talks about being scared of the 'tin man' and then her fear builds when strange things start happening to Tom's cot in the night, and they start to find bruises on his body.  Joss also discovers that she is once pregnant once more and that she is carrying a baby boy.  But as she starts to research her family history with the help of a friend from London, she is dismayed to find that all the male children in her family seemed to die prematurely and the house has always been passed down through the female line.

As Joss's fears for her two young sons and husband mount, can she convince her sceptical family who are starting to think that she herself is causing the accidents to Tom and the new baby Ned, that there is really danger lurking in Belheddon Hall? And how does the Yorkist King Edward IV fit in to the legend?  Does Edward still haunt the Hall looking for his lost love the Lady Katherine; harming all male children out of revenge towards the boy baby that took his lover's life away when she gave birth? Or is there something infinitely more sinister at work, that threatens to drag them all down into the darkness?

This is a fascinating book, with lots of twists and turn, and quite a few scares.  As it is set in the very English countryside, have a nice hotpot or shepherd's pie for your lunch while reading and wash it down with a half of real ale. This is a good page-turning read, which will have you wondering if tragedy will finally overtake Joss's loved ones, or whether she can find a way to stem the tide of evil before it is too late.

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