Title: Miss Abigail’s Room
Author: Catherine Cavendish
Published by: Etopia Press
It wasn’t so much the blood on the floor that Becky minded. It was the way it kept coming back…
As the lowest ranking parlor maid at Stonefleet Hall, Becky gets all the dirtiest jobs. But the one she hates the most is cleaning Miss Abigail’s room. There’s a strange, empty smell to the place, and a feeling that nothing right or Christian resides there in the mistress’s absence. And then there’s the blood, the spot that comes back no matter often Becky scrubs it clean. Becky wishes she had somewhere else to go, but without means or a good recommendation from her household, there is nothing for her outside the only home she’s known for eighteen years. So when a sickening doll made of wax and feathers turns up, Becky’s dreams of freedom and green grass become even more distant. Until the staff members start to die.
A darning needle though the heart of the gruesome doll puts everyone at Stonefleet Hall at odds. The head parlor maid seems like someone else, the butler pretends nothing’s amiss, and everyone thinks Becky’s losing her mind. But when the shambling old lord of the manor looks at her, why does he scream as though he’s seen the hounds of hell?
Following that book description, to say any more about the plot would certainly spoil it. This is a perfectly crafted English ghost story in the Gothic tradition. What struck me was the incredibly believable sense of place created by Cavendish. I was there in that old house, could see the servants at their table, the maids scrubbing and polishing. With the recent success of Downton Abbey, I reckon Cavendish is on to something, especially among women readers who want a change from romance. Nice to see the use of a doll to invoke fear, too. Stars out of 5? It has to be worth 4 for the attention to detail and the writing.