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Wednesday 31 July 2019

‘The Ghost of Hollow House’ by Linda Stratmann

Published by Saphere Books,
14 May 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-91302841-1(PB)

Ever since Mina Scarletti’s mother was one of many bereaved people who were the victims of a dishonest medium, Mina has gained a reputation as a person who is skilled in discovering the truth and exposing those who profit from deceiving vulnerable mourners. Mina has not got a closed mind, nor does she reject religion and the hope of an afterlife, but she is a practical person who will not accept that strange events have a supernatural origins until she has explored all other explanations. Ironically, Mina herself writes exciting stories of ghostly apparitions and mysterious happenings, although most of her family believe she gets a modest extra income from writing moral stories for children.

Mina’s life is not easy, as she suffers from scoliosis and is regarded with pity and embarrassment by those who do not know her. Those who become better acquainted with her discover the sharp mind, strong nerves and indomitable spirit that overcome the problems caused by her physical frailty. Thanks to the massage and exercise regime provided by her friends, Dr Hamid and his sister Anna, Mina is far stronger and more physically resilient than she has ever been before. This means that she feels able to undertake a journey in winter into rural Sussex when she receives an invitation that is also an appeal for help.

Mr Honeyacre had first encountered Mina in Brighton, when he was mourning for his dead wife and had been drawn into the activities of certain spiritualists. He emerged from the events with a great deal of respect for Mina and also with a second wife, Kitty, a lady much younger than himself, a contortionist who had been a popular entertainer on the stage. Mr Honeyacre still retains his belief in the supernatural and, when he discovers the country house is haunted, he invites Mina to visit him and discover the truth behind the strange happenings. Mina, accompanied by Dr Hamid and her friend, Nellie Jordan, agrees to go and stay at Hollow House.

The first thing Mina sees, within minutes of arriving at Hollow House, is a glimpse of a woman in white looking out of a window, but when she looks again the figure has disappeared. When Mina enquiries about the room she is told that it is kept locked because Mr Honeyacre is storing precious antiques in there. However, the room also contains some old toys that belonged to a family that lived in the house some time ago. One of the toys is an old rocking horse, and this is often heard creaking, as if someone is riding on it. As many strange happenings occur, Mina begins to wonder whether this is not a trick and ghosts really do exist.

Mina is still attempting to discover the truth about what is happening in Hollow House when, to her dismay, an old enemy arrives. This is a persuasive and influential man who has staked his reputation on his belief in ghosts and on the powers of mediums. A few months previously, he had an encounter with Mina and was vanquished, but this has made him even more eager to convert Mina or destroy her. Mina wishes to leave Hollow House but violent December storms result in floods and Mina finds herself trapped in an isolated country house with strange supernatural manifestations and an arrogant man who will stop at nothing to destroy her reputation.

The Ghost of Hollow House is set in 1871 and it is the fourth book featuring Mina Scarletti. Mina is a strong-minded, courageous and intelligent protagonist, with whom it is easy to empathise, and she is surrounded by unconventional but likeable supporters. The plot is intriguing and the historical background is immaculate, not merely in factual details but also in capturing the spirit of the mid-Victorian era, when a woman who dared to stand up to powerful men could find herself in danger of being declared insane. The Ghost of Hollow House is a fascinating book, which I recommend.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Linda Stratmann was born in Leicester in 1948 and first started scribbling stories and poems at the age of six. She became interested in true crime when watching Edgar Lustgarten on TV in the 1950s. Linda attended Wyggeston Girls Grammar School, trained to be a chemist’s dispenser, and later studied at Newcastle University where she obtained a first in Psychology. She then spent 27 years in the civil service before leaving to devote her time to writing. Linda loves spending time in libraries and archives and really enjoys giving talks on her subject.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.
To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.

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