cover image The Sin Eater

The Sin Eater

Sarah Rayne. Severn, $28.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8162-5

Rayne follows Property of a Lady with another strong take on classic ghost stories. Once again, antiques dealer Nell West and her paramour, Oxford don Michael Flint, are drawn into a haunted house investigation when Nell is hired by Benedict Doyle to catalogue the house he’s inherited. Benedict is visited by the ghost of his great-grandfather, Declan, who was cursed when he agreed to be the titular absolver of sins for a disgraced priest killed by his friend Colm. Also in the mix is a chess set said to be cursed by the devil. Rayne expertly juggles academic research, multiple flashbacks, a series of twisted murders, and even some humor (much of it surrounding the cat Wilberforce), combining them into a fast-moving tale that recalls the gothic movement without aping it. The twists are often as melancholy as they are sudden, and the seriousness of Colm and Declan’s long-past adventures partner nicely with Nell and Michael’s developing relationship. (Aug.)