The Grey Beginning, by Barbara Michaels

>> Thursday, October 16, 2003

I've just finished The Grey Beginning, by Barbara Michaels

Hoping that a trip to her late husband's childhood home will help her come to terms with his recent death, Kathy Malone travels to the rolling hills of Tuscany. But there, instead of solace, Kathy finds a lonely boy named Pietro, uncanny hints about her late husband, and the stately Contessa Morandini, whose chilly reception warms only when she mistakenly assumes Kathy is pregnant with the next heir of the Morandini line.

Despite--or perhaps because of--the Contessa's efforts to keep Kathy and Pietro apart, Kathy befriends the young boy. Their games lead her through the villa's maze of dark hallways, where she begins to discover hints of a startling truth. As the pieces of a sinister and murderous plan fall into place, Kathy realizes she has stumbled onto a dangerous obsession...one that was meant to stay hidden forever.
Enjoyable, a B.

Very modern gothic. The atmosphere was perfect: the isolated villa near Firenze, the hostile servants, the tragic little kid. But this is Barbara Michaels, so all thisoppressiveness was tempered with touches of humour, like Pietro's preocupation with American football. It worked perfectly.

I loved that it took me a long time to be sure of what exactly was happening, though I had some ideas almost from the first. The important thing was that Kathy was perfectly justified in not realizing what was going on; too often the heroine in a gothic comes across as stupid for not noticing things. Not her.

The what exactly was going on was a bit jarring and not completely believable, so this wasn't perfect. Other than that, an excellent example of the genre.

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