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Tuesday 7 December 2021

‘The Murder Dance’ by Sarah Rayne

Published by Severn House,
28 October 2021.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-5020-6 (HB)

A solicitor’s letter can bring bad news and good news. In this instance to Quentin Rivers - amazing news. In fact, he has to read it three times before it sinks in that he has inherited an old Elizabethan manor house in the village of Reivers in rural Norfolk that has been a vague legend in his family for as long as he can remember.  But it appears there is no mistake, The Tabor is his.

He cannot wait to tell Zillah, his cousin with whom he currently shares a house. After both their parents died in a car crash, he bought a modest house with the insurance his parents had taken out, and as Zillah had nothing, her parents being of the spendthrift variety, invited  her to share it with him.  Not quite as benevolent as it sounds. With this house he can keep Zillah from the boys and later men who will want her. Quentin wants her for himself, when the time is right.

Zillah cannot wait to get away from Quentin with his jealousy and possessiveness. The Tabor had been promised to her by Osbert Rivers who must be more than 90 now.  Soon The Tabor will be hers and she can escape from Quentin.

Owing to a car breakdown Toby and Arabella end up in the village of Revives and encounter Quentin and Zillah. Toby is enchanted with Zillah, and Arabella is fascinated to hear about The Tabor, which Quentin and Zillah are inspecting.  Who better than Phineas Fox, Arabella’s boyfriend,  a self-employed researcher, to uncover the mysteries of The Tabor.

This is a tale of secrets that date back to the 14 century. Delving into The Tabor’s past Phin discovers tales of a Murder Dance that has not be performed for centuries. Or has it?

This is a fascinating story. The current day narrators are Quentin and Zillah, but the past is revealed slowly from the extracts from Greenberry’s diary circa 1600, and Rosalind Rivers journal circa 1600.  Phin and Arabella find documentation which uncovers a murky and dark past to The Tabor. And as we move further forward in time, the five journal extracts from Nicolas Trigg in 1919/1920 provide many insights to the current situation regarding the house.

It’s an atmospheric and suspenseful story in which Sarah Rayne weaves an incredible tale of jealousy, passion and murder.  Recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

Sarah Rayne's first novel was published in 1982, and for several years she juggled writing books with working in property, pounding an elderly typewriter into the small hours in order to meet deadlines.  Much of the inspiration for her dark psychological thrillers comes from the histories and atmospheres of old buildings, a fact that is strongly apparent in many of her settings - Mortmain House in A Dark Dividing, Twygrist Mill in Spider Light, and the Tarleton Theatre in Ghost Song. She has written more than 25 books to date, and her work has met with considerable acclaim. Her books are also published in America, as well as having been translated into German, Dutch, Russian and Turkish.  In 2011, she published the first of a series of ghost-themed books, featuring the Oxford don, Michael Flint, and the antiques dealer, Nell West, who made their debut in Property of a Lady. Several years ago Sarah also wrote six contemporary horror books, originally under the pen-name of Frances Gordon. Her most recent series features music researcher Phineas Fox. There are five books in the series.

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