Monday, September 6

Victoria Holt: The Shivering Sands

When her archaeologist sister goes missing, a young widow takes a position as music teacher at her last known whereabouts, in the hope of discovering what became of her. She soon finds herself entangled in the complicated lives of her employer’s family, fascinated by the complex backgrounds of her four pupils, drawn irresistibly to the son recently returned from years of banishment after the accidental killing of his brother, intrigued by the real story behind her master’s wife’s suicide and plagued by the elderly spinster artist apparently obsessed with her long dead nephew.
She suspects that somebody knows more than they are saying about her sister’s disappearance and when one of her pupils also disappears she is sure of it. But it is only when an attempt is made on her life that she begins to believe that her sister met with foul play rather than a tragic accident.
The house is full of suspects and misplacing her trust almost results in her death but at least she’ll go knowing exactly what horror happened to her sister.
This traditional gothic romance from the late sixties has lost nothing with the passage of time. The plot is convoluted yet believable and the characters’ behaviour deliciously ambiguous. The hero is decidedly dark, though typical for the era his character is very much a two-dimensional figure in the background of the main story.
I can easily overlook the weak romance elements though since this is first and foremost a mystery and that aspect of the story is very well done.
Overall a great escapist read that aptly shows how it was Victoria Holt earned herself the title of the queen of gothic romance.-Lynn.

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