by Babara Michaels is a good, old fashioned gothic mystery. Kathy Malone is devastated by the death of her young husband, Bart Morandini. After seeking help from psychiatrists, she finally decides that she should go to Italy to make contact with Bart’s grandmother, the Contessa Morandini. The Contessa hasn’t replied to Kathy’s letters, and Kathy wants closure. When Kathy finally makes it to Tuscany and gets to the Morandini estate, she finds herself getting sucked into life there. The Contessa misinterprets Kathy’s stomach emptying with morning sickness and assumes that Kathy is pregnant. Kathy discovers that a ten-year-old child, Pietro, or Pete, is living a strange existence there. Pete is locked in his room and kept under close supervision. Pete lost his father and mother in a plane crash and was recently ripped from his home in the US. Kathy is concerned about Pete, and she becomes even more concerned when she hears that Pete has been trying to harm himself. Is it hereditary mental illness as the Contessa insists, or is it something else? Throw in the mean, hulking caretaker, Alberto, his sneaking wife, Emilia, the professor looking for letters from Browning, and the lunatic assistant gardener, and Kathy is up to her elbows in a sinister, gothic environment. Can Kathy resolve her issues over her husband’s death? Can she figure out what is going on with Pete, and possibly rescue him?
By the end of the book, all the loose strings are wrapped up. Although this book was published in 1984 and has a contemporary setting, the book is a great example of a classic gothic. Lurking evil, a huge house, and a feeling af entrapment permeate the book. I found myself getting caught up in the story and rooting for Kathy to figure out what the heck was going on. Of course, this wouldn’t be a romantic suspense gothic without romance, and Kathy has two potential suitors: Pete’s psychiatrist and the academic professor, David Brown. I thought the book was great, and I enjoyed reading it. I wish that Michaels/Peters/Mertz wrote more books in the genre.