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by Deborah Grabien
St. Martin's Minotaur, October 2006
257 pages
ISBN: 0312357575

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This may be the first time I've ever read a mystery that comes with a sound track. The book's title is also the title of a 17th century Scottish ballad, brilliantly recorded over 35 years ago by the British group Pentangle. This is not a coincidence; the song is an integral feature of the story, and Jacquie McShee's piercingly beautiful voice pervades the reading of it.

Penny Wintercraft-Hawkes is an actor and theatre manager in London. Her partner of several years, Ringan Laine, is a musician and folklorist; besides playing guitar in a successful band, he does freelance work as a historical consultant on building restoration projects. Ringan's expertise is engaged on a slightly different project when Penny's brother hires him to advise on the building of a new home in the Tudor style on London's Isle of Dogs.

Ringan likes his employers and the project promises to be both intriguing and rewarding, yet something seems eerily amiss from the start. Visiting the site, Ringan hears voices; shortly after, he has a terrifyingly real dream in which he witnesses a long-ago murder. And he is awakened by a phone call from Penny, on tour in Italy, who has just had the same dream.

Over the course of the next weeks, Ringan's dreams and visions become increasingly alarming and compelling; he begins blacking out, and for longer and longer periods. He and Penny and several of their friends and colleagues frantically try to determine the source of the haunting before he slips irretrievably away.

This book is the fourth in a series featuring Penny and Ringan. Each, I gather, involves ghosts, murder, and a British folksong. Penny is a 'sensitive', thus explaining the frequency of these occurrences in their lives. The reason the haunting in this book centres on Ringan is one of the mysteries of the tale.

This is a well-written and entertaining story. Grabien creates likeable characters and a fast-paced narrative. My one objection would be that, while I found the historical puzzle most absorbing, I never really bought the urgent necessity to solve the puzzle -- to know who was murdered, when, where and why -- as the (apparently) obvious way to save Ringan.

Still, I was able to willingly set that aside and enjoy what is, overall, a very well-spun tale.

Reviewed by Diana Sandberg, August 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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