cover image Thale's Folly

Thale's Folly

Dorothy Gilman. Ballantine Books, $19.95 (199pp) ISBN 978-0-345-43296-4

Sowing her pages with quotations from Renaissance herbals, Gilman (author of the Mrs. Pollifax mysteries) cultivates a quaint (and not overly sophisticated) novel of romantic suspense. When eccentric Harriet Thales died, her farmhouse in Western Massachusetts--called Thale's Folly--was inherited by her corporate shark nephew, who now resents the bundle of money he's been paying in taxes. He sends his son, Andrew, whose failed writing career has relegated him to a back office hack job at his father's company, to check out the old place. Andrew finds that the purportedly empty house is home to an enchanting group of squatters: a six-foot spinster who begins a new short story every day; a sharp-eyed practitioner of Wiccan magic; a Marxist Luddite; and a 19-year old waif named Tarragon. The waif, of course, fascinates Andrew the most. Snoopers and would-be murderers add an element of suspense as the fate of Thale's Folly is determined and Aunt Harriet's peculiar legacy is revealed. Gilman relies too heavily on her characters' idiosyncrasies to do the work of characterization for her, but her fans will probably enjoy being gently propelled on a pleasant narrative track. (Mar.)