Someone in the House by Barbara Michaels: B+

Book description:
An English Gothic mansion, transported stone by stone to the isolated Pennsylvania hills, Grayhaven Manor calls to Anne and Kevin. Here is the ideal summer retreat—a perfect location from which to write the book they have long planned together. But there are distractions in the halls and shadows of the looming architectural wonder luring them from their work—for they are not alone. Something lives on here from Grayhaven’s shocking past—something beautiful, powerful, and eerily seductive—unlocking the doors of human desire, of fear… and unearthly passion.

Someone in the House was a recommendation of sorts from Margaret, not coming from her personally but from an archival index. It’s the first book I’ve read by Barbara Michaels, who also writes under the name Elizabeth Peters.

When Anne arrives at Grayhaven, her intention is to work on a literature textbook with her coworker, Kevin, but a feeling of complacency seems to settle in, and little work actually gets accomplished. This air of contentment lingers even after Kevin’s Aunt Bea notices strange noises coming from her nephew’s room which lead into an investigation into possible spiritual phenomena within the house. The ensuing investigation is pretty interesting, at least at first, with plenty of nifty cameras, crypts, and brittle old documents. It does drag a little in spots, though, and by the end, when Anne keeps talking about how she’s figured it out but yet doesn’t divulge the answer, the result is irritating rather than riveting.

Anne herself is an interesting character. Fiercely feminist, she bristles at the notion that she might wish to cancel her own career-minded summer plans in order to accompany her current boyfriend on a trip overseas. Her ardent independence and lack of concern for his opinion of her actions are refreshing. After occasionally enduring weak-willed female protagonists that make me want to scream, Anne is a welcome change. I also like that she’s a feminist without being portrayed as the extreme, man-hating variety.

The rest of the characters, though, are not very interesting. Anne’s coworker and eventual love interest, Kevin, hasn’t got much of a personality and I never bought the romance that develops between them, though the reasons for that are made evident by the end of the book. The conclusion itself could’ve been more climactic, but it does provide a new light with which to see the events of the book, so I suppose that technically qualifies as a twist.

All in all, I enjoyed the book. It was fun and not too long and I’d probably read more by Michaels in this vein.

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  1. Read The Grey Beginning! And Be Buried in the Rain! Personally, I like the Peabody books better (Peters), but some Barbara Michaels books are favorites, too.

  2. Then I probably shouldn’t suggest Anne Perry, huh? The Pitt series is very good.

    Read Crocodile on the Sandbank – I’m curious to see what you think about it. I LOVE Emerson, and Peabody is a riot. The series gets better after Ramses shows up, though. Awesome character.

  3. Thanks for the recs! I definitely plan to read the Peabody books, and even own the first, but I’m trying to limit the number of mystery series I have going concurrently.

  4. I have the first one of the Pitt series, too. 🙂 I suppose I do that to signify my intent (if to no other than myself) to read the series someday.

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