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Heritage of Evil / Who Is Melody? (Belmont Double)
(See attached file for cover image.)

Belmont is a dependable name in popular Gothic circles, and the shorter novels published by this house as "Double Gothics" in the late 1960s and early '70s are generally good, if seldom great. What they might lack in originality the make up for in suspense and atmosphere. Quite a few of them are set in the US, which can be a refreshing departure from the usual Cornwall or Yorkish moors if the author handles the setting right.

Heritage of Evil by Joan Lockwood Finn and Who Is Melody? by Patricia Drew are both examples of the well written, pleasant fluff one expects of the Belmont line. I had never heard of either of these authors before, and wonder if they might be pseudonyms for others I've read. The writings styles of the two are curiously similar, but that tends to be true of most Belmont titles, possibly because editors insisted on conformity to a house style.

The locale of Heritage of Evil is the unspecified southern US, apparent only because the set is decorated with Spanish moss; otherwise it might take place anywhere. There is the usual ingenue shocked to discover that she has inherited a family estate and fortune (and naturally she cares nothing for the money; she just wants to be loved and accepted); the forbidding mansion stocked with relatives who behave in accordance with mysterious motives; the locked room located directly above the heroine's and from which issues disquieting noises -- in this case, a music box chiming an eerie lullaby. What stands out here is the character of Jennifer, the aunt. She is more complex than the rest of the cast, and one can almost sympathize with her ambivalence toward the young girl whose arrival threatens to uproot her from her comfortable matriarchy.

Who Is Melody? is a little more memorable, if only for the pervasive eponymous question that drives the plot. Despite the rather generic grounds ("The English Countryside") and stock cast of characters, the writer does succeed in making us want to find out who Melody is -- and when we do find out, the answer is a complete surprise.

Overall, I'd rate this Belmont Double as I rate most of them -- something to read in a day if you can't find any du Maurier lying around, pleasant and reliable if rather forgettable, yet good enough for a snack. I'll continue to collect Belmont Doubles.

-- Penfeather

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Hello Penfeather, I have enjoyed reading your posts. You express yourself very well on various topics relating to this genre. Have you ever considered writing a gothic novel?
(07-09-2010, 01:57 PM)AliceChell Wrote: Hello Penfeather, I have enjoyed reading your posts. You express yourself very well on various topics relating to this genre. Have you ever considered writing a gothic novel?

Hi Alice, and thanks for the good words. I've enjoyed reading your posts too. As for writing a gothic novel, it would be a lot of fun but it seems there's very little market for it these days. Public tastes are cyclic, though, so who knows . . .

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