Uneven ghost story that is a kind of homage to Rebecca. David Warwick longs to visit his estranged father and twin brother in England. When he arrives at his father’s home he learns that Colin, the twin brother, is dead as is his wife Helen. David assumes that they died together but he eventually learns they died on separate days in separate apparent accidents.
As he tries to learn more about the two deaths he also discovers a violent past attached to the cottage which he has now inherited. Most of the previous tenants of the cottage also died violent deaths going back for three generations. David begins to think that perhaps there is a malevolent presence associated with the cottage and the grounds.
An introverted housekeeper, a roguish artist who has disappeared and various villagers figure in this complicated plot which slowly reveals the intricate past of Helen and Colin as well as the long dead previous occupants of the cottage. The ghost story aspect does not truly come into play until the book is two-thirds over, but the slow revelation of all the dead characters’ pasts holds the reader’s interest.
However, in the final third gruesome incidents pile one upon the other in a kind of unintentional parody of M. R. James’ “Lost Hearts.” A horribly gory ending in which the ghost exacts even more bloody revenge (with five corpses she hadn’t had enough?) seemed like it belonged to a completely different story. Prior to the shocking finale the structure was that of a detective novel with legitimate suspense and genuine supernatural aspects. To suddenly convert the story into a gory shocker smacks of potboiler to me.
Taylor's first novel The Godsend (one of the many devil child horror stories of the mid 20th century) was made into a movie in 1980. I think I may have seen it but much of it has faded into oblivion.