The Shrouded Walls

Author: Susan Howatch 
Pages: 179 
Publisher: Stein & Day 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Marianne's letter never reached her brother. It was stolen and destroyed. 

Ever since Marianne married Axel Brandson, strange things have happened. Theirs was no love match; Axel needed to be married to inherit his father's fortune. But it was not until Marianne arrived at the isolated family estate in Sussex that she realized the inheritance was clouded by murder... and that the murderer was still nearby, waiting to strike again. 

My Summary: Marianne and her brother Alex had no idea that their parents had not made any plans for them in the case of their deaths. Now, orphaned and destitute, the twins have no choice but to fend for themselves. Marianne's only choices -- being the illegitimate child of a high-ranking politician -- are to become a governess or to get married, lest her brother be forced to join the army. 

Enter Axel Brandson. A wealthy foreigner, he requests that Marianne become his wife so that he may fulfill the terms of his father's will and inherit the land left to him. She accepts, and all seems well until she reaches the secluded family home that happened to be the scene of a gruesome murder: Axel's father's. And the murderer may or may not be living under the same roof. One thing is certain, though: every member of the family benefitted in some way from Axel's father's death, and they'll also benefit from Marianne's .... 

My Thoughts: I read this book almsot eight years ago and adored it. It was like nothing I'd ever read before, and it introduced me to the word of gothic lit. I found it in a discarded box of books outside the library and decided to give it a shot. A few days ago I rediscovered it as I cleaned up my bookshelves and decided to see if I would enjoy it the second time around. Needless to say, twelve year old me was not wrong. Susan Howatch's writing is timeless, pulling you in and not letting go.

Marianne's predicament sounds like the opening of an Austen novel, but it soon becomes clear that she is caught up in a lot more than a simple family drama. The plot is complex and the writing is detailed, yet not too filled with adjectives and descriptions so as to bore the reader. It was a fairly short novel, but it never felt rushed or hurried.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys gothic lit and anyone who enjoys a good mystery. This book is proof that newer is not always better when it comes to books!

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