Wednesday, April 6, 2011

IN BRIEF: Sweetheart, Sweetheart - Bernard Taylor

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.


  1. You must have had a relaxing vacation because you've been posting up a storm. This one sounds interesting (I'll read anything that reminds someone of M.R. James), but I think I'll skip the Cunningham. I'm afraid I'd recognize most of the characters as people I grew up with down in the hills of the Ozarks. Who needs that memory?

  2. Carol -

    Vacation was relaxing for different reasons. The secret of the post overload is a book diary I kept since 2005. I'm merely pulling from that previously written "reviews" and polishing them up for the blog. To be honest I am taking a break from reading vintage stuff and I'm returning to the 21st century. I have a small pile of new books that I'm slowly working my way through. For the next two months I'll be posting articles on books I've read what seems like ages ago. There will be a lot of "IN BRIEF" posts for a while. I only read two books on vacation - yours and The Naked Sun which is tomorrow's Forgotten Book.

  3. Though this one sounds too gory for me, I just wanted to point out the woman's face on the cover. THe one done in gray. That's Twiggy. Oh yes, for sure. I'm wondering the pub. date of this novel. Don't know Twiggy? She was a 60's super model who, while very pretty, did physically resemble a twig. :)

  4. I remember Twiggy. I may have been a kid in the 60s, but I certainly remember her. Didn't she become an actress?

    The jacket artist is Honi Werner who did a lot of great work in the 1970s. She's still working but she's forsaken painting on canvas and instead turned to digital artwork and Photoshopped images. And I say "Boo!" to that.

  5. Yup. She's still around.

    I say, "Boo! To that!" as well. :)

  6. I didn't mind the "potboiler" climax, but the journey to get to it is so leisurely placed I almost didn't make it. Also I liked the "erotic ghost" aspect! The paperback cover art, by George Ziel, is pretty cool too. THE GODSEND was a nifty read too, better paced and creepier than this one, I thought. Movie looked dreadful however.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Will. I've visited your blog a long time ago and, I think, also commented on some your posts. Can't remember which ones though. I'll have to visit you more often now that I know you are as enthusiastic about the kinds of books I like to read and write about.