Friday, January 28, 2011
THE WEAVER AND THE FACTORY MAID by Deborah Grabien
I somehow found out about this author recently, and got the first in her series from interlibrary loan.
THE WEAVER AND THE FACTORY MAID is set in contemporary England. Hero Ringan Laine (folk musician and historic preservationist) receives a lovely cottage as payment for a restoration job, and upon moving in discover that the cottage, and a nearby barn (which Ringan hopes to convert to a studio) are haunted...and it turns out the specters are the subject of a ballad Ringan and his group have performed...
How is it? Well, Grabien's grasp of setting is great, and the ghostly scenes are ghostly enough, but overall...it left me cold. As a ghost story it's fairly average but as a mystery (which it's supposed to be) it's really flat. Much is spent on introducing the characters (which include his girlfriend Penny, who manages a theatrical troupe, and his benefactor, Albert) and describing the cottage and environment (near Glastonbury), and establishing the haunting, that there's not much real oomph. The characters don't succeed much in uncovering the ghosts' secret; in the end, the ghosts themselves tell the mortals who they are and how to put them to rest.
But for me, the biggest issue is that there's no plot in the mortal world to act as a counterpoint. Even a murder is revealed as solved the minute it's uncovered. Among my guilty pleasures are the gothic romantic suspense works of Barbara Michaels, and she always has some sort of human drama going along with the ghost story, whether it's solving a murder or other crime, or simply negotiating a rocky path to romance. That's something that's lacking here. Laying the ghosts is hardly essential; Grabien presents them as being more nuisances than actually menacing. It would have been more pressing if the ghosts had been possessing people, or if the real murderer remained to be discovered. There's no Big Secret to be uncovered here, no threat to the living to be dealt with.
However, it seems this did successfully kick off a series, and I'm sufficiently intrigued to be motivated to check out the others. Given some more fleshing-out of the stories, this could be a fun series. (There's five of them, and Grabien appears to have moved on as the last one came out in 2007.) So in the future I'll be checking them out...