cover image Property of a Lady

Property of a Lady

Sarah Rayne. Severn House, $28.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8028-4

A gnarled haunted house story spanning centuries makes a promising supernatural venture by crime fiction author Rayne (What Lies Beneath). Literature professor Michael Flint pays a visit to a crumbling old house recently inherited by his friends the Harpers and encounters a terrifying presence. The Harpers' young daughter sees the spirit in her dreams, as does the daughter of recently widowed antiques dealer Nell West. Michael and Nell embark on a harried search through local folklore, moldering records, and the house's mysterious past before the children become part of a decades-old tragedy. Rayne's crisp and fast-paced writing deftly combines sharp characters, obscure legend, the panorama of 20th-century history, subtle romance, and even subtler melancholy, turning the picked-over bones of the haunted house story into something fresh and frequently terrifying. Even an abrupt and too-easy ending doesn't diminish the book's spine-tingling chill, merely leaving readers hungry for a sequel. (July)