Haunted Ballad series, No 5
Thomas Dunne Book
2007/ ISBN 9780312374006
Suspense/ England / Contemporary
by L J Roberts
First Sentence: In the large upstairs room at the pub called
the Duke of Cornwall’s Own, a local band, the Tin Miners were
playing to an enthusiastic audience.
Musician Ringan Laine and theater producer Penny Wintercraft-Hawkes
are looking forward to a rare vacation off together. Plans change
when Ringan’s sister, whose mother-in-law needs her, asks
to send him her 14-year-old daughter, Rebecca, a violin prodigy.
Staying with Gowan, a musician friend in Cornwall, seemed like a
good idea until Penny has a vision of a man dying and Becca starts
sleep-walking. What are the forces from the past and beyond the
grave influencing these two women?
Books that include a cast of characters and a map are such a treat.
It is even better that Ms. Grabien’s characters are distinct
and strong I didn’t need reminding of them, but it’s
still a lovely thing to have.
The recurring characters of Ringlan and Penny are now old friends
to me, but the author doesn’t assume they are known to every
reader. New readers will have no problem learning who they are and
uncovering their backstory. I think that is such an important thing
for an author to do. The new characters are interesting, and fully
dimensional. There is one character, Gowan, you start by liking
but the shine dims a bit; for another, Lucy, the reverse is true.
It is very well done. Lucy is a particularly interesting character
as she is a researcher and a true skeptic—something you don’t
usually see in a book with paranormal elements. She is very believable
and adds the perfect balance to the story.
Ms. Grabian’s powers of description not only create a sense
of place by showing us around Cornwall, but provided us a sense
of the characters through their personal environments. When including
old documents, I appreciate her leaving them in the appropriate
Old English and Victorian spelling and grammar. She trusts the ability
of her audience, which is wonderful.
Each of Ms. Grabian’s “Haunted Ballad” books
is based on an actual old ballad, with a verse from the ballad at
the beginning of each chapter. From that, she constructs a story
each with a unique use of the paranormal element and a solidly constructed
plot. Just when you think you’ve found a hole, she closes
it. The characters ask the questions you mentally ask, and she answers
them. The tension and suspense increase at a steady rate but without
ever crossing over into graphic horror. The result is even more
frightening than if she had, and then she adds excellent twists.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and closed it without identifying
any flaws in its construction. The only question for potential readers
is whether they enjoy books with a paranormal theme. If the answer
is yes, I highly recommend “New-Slain Knight”.