With Sleep Disturbed
by Michael Ford
Category: Fiction / Horror
319 pages; ISBN: 0738824984
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Paul Lappen
This novel takes place in 1890s Boston. Brice Stockton travels from Texas to pick up the body of Peter, his older brother, who has died in a suicide pact with Diane Cabel, of the wealthy Suffolk Cabels. It seems like a straightforward, but gruesome, task. When he gets there, not only is he denied entrance to the estate, but Brice is told that Peter has already been buried, contrary to the wishes of the Stockton family. He is also told of the Cabel curse. A curse can be something other than perpetual bad luck.
Once Brice practically forces himself onto the estate, he finds an eccentric family who have seen better days. Moorefield is the family patriarch, Wolf is his son and heir (along with being an arrogant you-know-what) and Maida is his daughter. Ainsley, another son, is a congenital imbecile. There are also a number of servants.
The police are not very helpful, because of the Cabel’s influence, but the coffins are dug up, only to find that they’re both empty. Brice begins to get the idea that Diane and Peter didn’t kill themselves. Suspicion falls on one of the servants, who is killed by Wolf just before he was going to confess. During a hunting trip, Wolf and several of his men attempt to kill Brice and make it look like an accident. He barely escapes by jumping into a nearby lake, where he finds the bodies of Peter and Diane. Suspicion then falls on Maida, who is being treated by a local doctor, who also happens to be a hypnotist. Not only is she being sexually assaulted while under hypnosis, but just enough of a post-hypnotic suggestion is planted in her mind to make Maida think that maybe she is actually guilty of murder. For a time, suspicion also falls on Ainsley. Brice also learns that Maida is holding a major secret over Wolf’s head concerning Ainsley. If Moorefield got even an inkling of this secret, Wolf would be disinherited so fast it would make his head spin. Just to make things more interesting, on more than one occasion, Brice sees Peter and Diane actually walking through the house. They aren’t some ghostly see-through apparition, but solid enough to reach out and touch. Through it all, Brice is drawn deeper and deeper into the depths of his own soul.
This book has it all. It’s got a mansion with secret passages and wings that have been closed for years, it’s got dark family secrets, several dead bodies, a bit of sex, strange goings-on and a really well done story. This fine piece of Victorian horror writing is very much worth reading.