House of Many Shadows, by Barbara Michaels

Cover ImageFinished 7-27-09, rating 3.5/5, pub. 1974

“What period is the house?  Colonial?”

“No, it’s a perfect monstrosity of a Victorian mansion-Gothic revival, I think they call it, with stained glass and the rest.  I think it’s perfectly awful, but apparently that sort of thing is now considered amusing, and it’s an excellent example of it’s type.”

“Good heavens,” Meg said, as the image took shape in her mind.  “It sounds overpowering.  Are you sure it isn’t haunted?  I don’t think I could stand living with a ghost just now.”

“Why should it be haunted?” Sylvia asked reasonably.

“I was joking.”

Chapter 1

Meg thinks she’s going crazy.  She had an accident and now she suffers from hallucinations that her doctors say are temporary.  But they don’t feel temporary to Meg and she asks her very rich cousin, Sylvia, to help her out since she has had to leave her job.  Sylvia offers her a place to stay in the Pennsylvania country and Meg is appreciative of the generosity. 

Meg arrives at the house and is greeted by an old childhood nemesis in Andy and the two must learn to play nice since he is the only other person living on the secluded 20 acre property.  After a few physical encounters the two realize that just by touching they both have the same hallucination.  Are they seeing ghosts or visions, or a reenactment of the past?  The two begin to investigate the history of the house to get answers.

The book was a spooky page turner.  The visions combined with the history and geneology made this a great read for me.  The real relationship between Meg and Andy was prickly and I enjoyed the references to Andy being a coward.  Meg was the tough one and I loved reading about a strong woman – even if she was seeing things that weren’t there. 

Michaels did a great job of wrapping up the mystery of the house and visions in a satisfying way, but there were a few loose ends about the characters that I would have liked knowing about.  It left me thinking the book wasn’t quite done even after I’d turned the last page.  All in all it was a good spooky mystery and I would read another by Michaels.

For those who don’t know, Barabara Michaels is really Elizabeth Peters.