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The House of Two Wives by Douglas Locke
"She saw him die...Helen Peters watched as her patient, Lyman Harpur, died in agony - agony of body and of soul.  She knew he would officially be listed as a victim of the tropical disease he had contracted years earlier.  She also knew that he had been deliberately murdered.  But she had no way of knowing whether he had been killed by his present wife Phoebe, who was vindictively and vengefully alive, or by his former wife Celeste, who was dead..."

Copyright 1967.

What?!! Really?!! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Where do I begin?  I guess I should begin with SPOILER ALERT!  Do not read further if you are interested in reading this book.  On the other hand, please read further so that you can be saved from opening this book.

I will insert in here that Ms. Radcliffe described this author's writing (in another book) as obtuse.  I did not find his writing that obtuse.  In fact, it read fairly easy in my opinion.  Somewhat simplistic at times.  I was interested in finding out how a man handles a Gothic romance.  And I was extremely disappointed.  I cannot be certain if Mr. Locke really is a man, of course, as people do use pseudonyms.

First, the synopsis above is a total lie.  Perhaps it had been the intention of the author to write such a story.  Perhaps he died or for whatever reason, left it unfinished.  Lyman Harpur does not die in the book.  The book ends so strangely that the reader is left with: What?

Helen Peters comes to New Orleans to nurse Lyman Harpur, an archaeologist, having been engaged by his wife Phoebe when she meets Helen at the home of Phillip Boyeton, who had bought the plantation from Harpur.  Phoebe had been Lyman's assistant and there are hints throughout the book that she killed Lyman's first wife Celeste.  Phoebe herself is having an affair with another man and invites him to the home as a guest and she continually insists on making coffee for Lyman and laces it with something that the reader can only guess at.  The only amusing part of this book, in my eyes, was the seance scene.  That took up a significant part of the story.  We are introduced to a number of characters who attend the seance and have interactions with those who have gone before.  What happens during the seance influences the rest of the story.  We have a woman, Estelle, who is disillusioned about her Indian spirit, a married couple - the man who is obsessed with making money and saving his family company, a judge who may be having an affair with the woman in the couple, and Warren (Phoebe's lover).  Each of these have interactions with the dead during the seance.  Helen gets a visit from a family friend/doctor, who was also her husband's uncle.  Furthermore, her deceased husband is supposedly there but is not speaking.  This makes her nervous because she was starting to have feelings for Phillip, who does not make much of an appearance in the story and the romance had developed prior to the story.  Then we have Lyman trying to communicate with Celeste because he is trying to find the deed to the house they were living in.  By the way, Lyman also has psychic abilities.  The seance was led by an outside medium but Lyman conducts his own little trance with Helen's help later.  Getting back to the story.  After the seance, several of the characters become thoughtful.  Estelle and Warren are having a chat when they are interrupted by Phoebe, who goes into a jealous rage and curses Estelle.  Estelle is found dead in the morning and Lyman questions whether Phoebe did it.  It was declared natural (from what, nobody knows).  Warren breaks off from Phoebe and goes back to Mississippi.  A few days later, Phoebe runs off after Warren.  In the meantime, Lyman has his trance in order to find his deed.  During that trance, Helen gets messages from/about her late husband.  They start making a search of the house for the missing deed, led by clues from the trance.  They find the deed just as Phoebe returns with Warren.  The family is saved and Helen has to confront the fact that the afterlife exists, therefore, she cannot marry Phillip.  

Say what? Yeah, that's how the story ends. Draw your own conclusions.

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