Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Please Lord, help me! Send an angel to protect me from the devils and demons of this house!’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Were I a 19th century kitchen maid in some great stately home reading this over my supper, I could not be more thrilled. Shuttered Bagdale Hall with its new, darkly handsome master and his pale, mysterious young ward; howlings and scratchings in the night; a red room wherein lurks some frightful beast; a housekeeper grown cold and distant, with bright, fresh blood upon her cuff. It’s the stuff of penny dreadfuls, and makes a great opener to the lurid period drama that is the third instalment in the Witching Legacy quartet.
I have to say that I got Warlock in Whitby flashbacks from this – specifically, the subplot in which Miss Boston goes to visit her dying friend Patricia at her grand home in London, and ends up in a fistfight with Patricia’s fearsome nurse, a werewitch of the Black Sceptre. Poor Grace is, evidently, not as fortunate as Aunt Alice, and there is no drunken butler to save her in the nick of time.
If I remember correctly, Mr Jarvis took Grace’s name from a young reader. If that’s the case, congratulations to the real Grace for starring, however briefly, in your very own Victorian murder mystery.
Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter here – this is a piece of pastiche artistry. A whole bunch of ideas that have been foreshadowed for ages (even back to the original trilogy) have all come blazing to life. In some ways, it’s almost like Books 1 and 2 were just a glorious excuse to get to this one. And maybe they were, but they were such cracking yarns with such memorable characters, they did’t at all feel like filler.
But here we go – it’s the 1890s, and all the great supernatural tales of the 19th century are getting a mention. First up, there’s Mrs Paddock’s mention of a Barbary ape, scampering up the ivy. This immediately put me in mind of the legendary short story, ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ by Edgar Allan Poe, where ***spoiler alert*** a particularly gruesome murder of two women in an apartment turns out, in the end, to have been committed by an escaped ape that climbed in the window.
Then we’ve got secret rooms that must not be entered, disappearing maids, and clandestine explorations at night by candlelight – what is not to to like? I was tensing up when Grace decided to step into the red room …
That grisly delight was great, but who didn’t get a thrill when we had Mr Dark drawing blood with a syringe, and a mysterious Irishman prowling the streets wondering what is going on? Hell. Yes. I can see where this is going and it’s an absolutely awesome literary nod. It’s one that has been hinted at for ages but was no less brilliant when it arrived.