A gloomy old English country mansion - actually part of a ruined priory. A group of young, adventurous people who are determined to live in the house. A group of peculiar (and not overly friendly) villagers, full of tales of supernatural doings. A skeleton falling out of a wall. And a far-too-often-sighted cowled spectre known as "the monk." who may be haunting the place.
Just the everyday sort of thing for the characters in "Footsteps in the Dark," a Golden Age mystery by Georgette Heyer. It is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can click here to listen to the full review.
"Footsteps in the Dark" was Georgette Heyer's first mystery, published in 1932. While she is generally remembered more for her romances than for her mysteries, the latter were mostly quite good, written with humor. This one is more along the lines of an Edgar Wallace-type thriller than a traditional "puzzle" mystery - there does tend to be a fair amount of lurching from revelation to revelation - but the overall effect is delightful.
The story concerns Charles Malcolm, whose wife, Celia, along with her brother and sister, Peter and Margaret Fortescue, have inherited a ruined priory, in which they intend to live. The lack of electricity (I am not certain about running water!) appears to be no handicap to their determination. What might be a problem is the fact that the place apparently is haunted; a cowled figure, known as "The Monk," has been seen walking the halls at night.
Naturally, the quartet refuses to be frightened. And, equally naturally, things escalate to the point of murder. But the whole story is told with such good nature and humor that it is hard to take it as anything more than a fine evening's entertainment - which it is. You'll enjoy the characters - there are a few mysterious strangers running around, after all - and the Priory makes a wonderful setting - and there's much more going on there than may meet the eye.
Georgette Heyer's "Footsteps in the Dark" is back in print again from Sourcebooks Landmark; it is also available for the Amazon Kindle.