Be Buried in the Rain, by Barbara Michaels

>> Tuesday, November 18, 2003

How I wish that Barbara Michaels was still writing! I mean, I do like the Amelia Peabody books she's now exclusively writing as Elizabeth Peters, but I miss the gothic fiction she specialized as under the Michaels name. With no new books, all I can do is either find read-alike authors (I've found some winners that way, like Susanna Kearsley), or reread the Michaels books I've got, and I've got them all.

Earlier this week I decided to reread Be Buried in the Rain.

There are secrets buried at Maidenwood--dark secrets that span generations. Medical student Julie Newcomb, who once spent four miserable childhood years at this rundown Virginia plantation, would rather not resurrect ancient memories, or face her own fear.

Yet Julie cannot refuse her relatives' plea that she spend her summer caring for the bedridden--but still malevolent--family patriarch. Reluctantly, Julie agrees, praying that life at Maidenwood will not be as bleak as before. From the first, though, Julie finds Maidenwood a haunted place, not merely echoing with grim reminders, but filled with dark secrets that will become part of her life even today.

A fully clothed skeleton found on a country road, a cantankerous old woman crippled by stroke, a somewhat chauvinistic yet charming politician, religious fanatics, a mythical ancestor, practitioners of "psychic" archeology, long-suppressed memories, and a single-minded man from her past: these are the elements that confront her.
Exactly what I was needing. A fascinating book, and it gets an A-.

This was by far the creepiest book I've read in a long time, especially the ending. The bare hint of a supernatural element was scarier than many full-blown ghosts in other stories. There's even one particular line from the end that's still echoing in my mind, days after having finished it! And the atmosphere helped a lot. I felt the stifling heat, and I could see the big, dark house perfectly. Modern gothic all the way.

Michaels is really good at characterization. The main characters, Julie, Martha, Matt (except in a way for Alan, who felt curiously underwritten) I felt I knew inside out, and even the secondary characters were excellently done. I understood characters I saw in only a couple of scenes, like the judge!

The story itself was really interesting. This time I had some ideas of what was going on (the last time I read it wasn't too long ago), but I distinctly remembered being shocked when I first read it. Still, even without the element of surprise, it was fascinating. I loved the combination of the archeological elements with the more modern intrigue.

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