Helen Grant

Penguin pbk £6.99

Released 6th June 2010

Reviewer: Maureen Carlyle


Maureen Carlyle is a reviewer, past judge of the Ellis Peters Award and is involved in the theatre and a keen archaeologist.

Those of you with a taste for the creepy will like this one. Lin Fox is 17, the precocious daughter of an academic at an unspecified top flight English university. Her father, bitterly disappointed at not receiving an expected professorship, has decamped in a huff to Germany with his family, Lin, her elder sister Polly, his second wife Tuesday and Lin and Polly’s baby half-brother, Reuben. (Fox’s first wife deserted her husband and young family and went to the States to be a political activist – as you get to know the family, you begin to realise why).

Fox has come to Germany to research his pet project, the Allerheiligen Glass, a lost series of 16th century stained glass windows illustrating biblical scenes, which are believed to have been destroyed. But Fox has reason to believe that they are still hidden somewhere in the remote Eifel area of Germany. He is completely obsessed by his work and takes no notice of his family’s objections. Lin can continue her education in Germany (she has been there before and speaks the language much better than he does), Polly is in a gap year and the utterly vain and useless Tuesday only has two interests in life – her appearance and sleep. Her baby is looked after almost entirely by Polly.

They are on their way to their destination – an ancient castle where they have booked lodgings (only the best for the Fox family!) when they see someone lying in an orchard and stop to ask the way. Lin, as the German speaker, is told to go and speak to him. When she approaches him, she finds he is not asleep but dead, having apparently fallen from the apple tree while picking a single apple, from which he has taken one bite. The curious thing is that he is surrounded by shards of broken glass. Lin’s suggestion is that they should go immediately to the police, but her father refuses to do this, saying that this will delay them unnecessarily and there is nothing they can do for him anyway.

This is only the first of an increasingly sinister train of events which are to befall them in the coming weeks. Needless to say, the castle is in a dark, impenetrable wood where there is no mobile phone signal and no landline. Their only neighbours are a peculiar farming family. The father is completely antagonistic towards them but his son Michel admires Lin and gives her lifts to school. Fox already knows that there is a curse on the Allerheiligen Glass, (which of course he pooh-poohs) and which is supposedly guarded by a demon.

It would be a shame to give away any more. The mystery deepens, is eventually solved by Lin, but this leads to tragedy.

It is a gripping story, well-written, and not nearly as corny as it sounds.






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