My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a lovely, gentle, atmospheric cosy mystery with a ghost on the side!
I was drawn to this book largely by the setting – a decrepit old castle in the Scottish Highlands, an area I know and love. Much to my delight it proved to be filled with such realistic Highlanders I felt I could easily come across these very characters next time I’m in the area.
Cauldstane is the name of the castle, and the story revolves around ghost-writer, Jenny Ryan, and the memoirs of adventurer and laird, Sholto MacNab. The set-up reminds me of the wonderful BBC TV series, ‘Monarch of the Glen’ – as with so many old families, the inherited property is crumbling around their ears, and despite wealth in land, actual ready cash is non-existent. Sholto hopes to raise much-needed funds with the sale of his memoir and employs Jenny to write it, requiring her to live for a while as part of the family while she puts together the information she needs to write the book.
Like any good mystery there is a clan curse, unexplained deaths in the family’s past, and a hunky laird-in-waiting who refuses to inflict himself upon any woman, determined to protect them from the evil that stalks the castle.
Who wouldn’t be charmed by the gentle Scottish brogue, the simmering tension between all the main characters, the glorious Highland landscape…. and a ghost who likes to write nasty letters on Jenny’s laptop?
There is one fast, exciting passage as a turning point in the middle of the story, and despite the gentle pace of the remainder the tension is palpable and, with characters as real as these, you have to keep turning the pages to find out what that malicious spirit will do next. Or, indeed, what she has already succeeded in getting away with.
Gillard succeeded for me in dropping a couple of shock twists at the end that I never saw coming, bringing the novel to a very satisfying conclusion.
If you are a lover of this sort of tale, in the vein of the late Mary Stewart, I can’t recommend Cauldstane highly enough – go, buy!