I was attracted to this book because of the absolutely gorgeous cover and the title. I love, love, love stories about spooky old houses as well as traditional-style murder mysteries. I should probably have paid a bit more attention to the blurb because, while there is both a deliciously haunted house and a clever murder mystery, the story is set in 1917 and is also about spies, secret plans and traitors - which is not normally my thing at all. However, I absolutely loved it!
Donovan (the sole survivor of his regiment) and Kate (employed by the War Office to crack codes) are dispatched by 'C' to a house party at Blackwater Abbey on a remote island just off the Devon coast. Lady Highmount has invited her friends and two psychics to her house for a seance. She is hoping to make contact with her sons who are missing in action, believed dead. Her husband, Lord Highmount, is a man of working class origins who has made his fortune manufacturing weapons. Someone is selling plans of these to the Germans, and it's up to Donovan and Kate to find out who.
While there are plenty of (real) ghosts at Blackthorn Abbey, I think this book would suit readers of murder mysteries best. There are some truly chilling moments (the seance!), but perhaps not enough jump shocks for fans of ghost stories. There are, however, plenty of twists for vintage crime fans and a good puzzle to get their teeth into!
I adored the characters and their sparky dialogue. The action is shared equally between Donovan and Kate; she's a thoroughly modern heroine and not just there to make the hero look good. I really hope this is the first book in a new series, because I would love to read more!
Brilliant stuff! Thoroughly recommended!