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by Patricia Hall
Allison and Busby, November 2004
254 pages
ISBN: 074908376X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jay Morton has recently got divorced and decides to return to Pendle Bridge, the small Yorkshire town where she grew up. She has ten-year-old daughter Kate in tow and a new job to look forward to setting up a museum in a rambling old house.

But within days of arriving, Jay finds the town is not quite as she remembered it. Aside from being able to buy focaccia bread in the baker's, there is still the uncomfortable relationship with sister Sue and with brother-in-law Chris Hateley. Chris is editor of the local paper, and he and Jay were an item way back.

And what seems a cute little cottage turns out to be not what you'd call an ideal home. Spooky things keep happening, and Jay is sure someone is coming into her house when she's not there.

The new job, meanwhile, doesn't look like it will be a bundle of laughs. There's a grumpy caretaker, plus a patronising and over-bearing Labour Member of Parliament sticking his nose in at every opportunity. And once Jay finds some scary and historic masks in the museum attic, things go downhill fast.

Hall's strength has always been skewering small towns. Bradfield, scene of her Ackroyd and Thackeray series, is referred to in passing, and with Pendle Bridge she captures perfectly the claustrophobic atmosphere of an insular community where there are too many secrets.

THE MASKS OF DARKNESS features an generally unlikeable bunch of characters, and even Jay isn't that well-rounded or enticing a creation. And given the clues dropped in and the sub-plot concerning a children's home, you'll probably guess what happens well in advance of the ending. But there are some sinister moments along the way to make the book worth the read.

Hall's writing is never less than precise, and her storytelling focussed. I enjoyed the book well enough, but couldn't help feeling it was a tad pedestrian in comparison with the edgy and dangerous Ackroyd and Thackeray series

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, December 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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