The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart ~ 1967. This edition: Coronet, 1974. Paperback. ISBN: 0-340-04353-9. 256 pages.
Oh. My. Goodness. This was utterly over-the-top, and if it had been written by anyone lesser (say Phyllis A. Whitney) I would have savagely panned it. But I’ve now embraced this author fully, and therefore completely forgave her the bizarre plot and the very weird and unlikely “drugging” scenes. (And the slightly ick-inducing cousinly love.)
Drum roll, please (or you may substitute the snarl of an accelerating Porsche engine here) …
My rating: 9.5/10
Okay, this isn’t even going to be a “proper” review, because I want you to come to it with no idea of where the plot would go, like I did. I will instead throw out these teasers. This story contains:
- A lovely, unapologetically wealthy, 22-year-old sophisticated world traveller as the heroine.
- An eccentric old lady who has completely channeled Lady Hester Stanhope and has created her own legend in a decaying Lebanese castle.
- A ne’er-do-well young Englishman, handsome and intelligent but fatally weak-willed, who has gotten into a situation very much over his head; perks being the privilege of enjoying the favours of a dusky local maiden and galloping about the countryside on a beautiful Arab horse, accompanied by two gorgeous saluki hounds.
- A scene in which the heroine unwittingly (???) smokes three “marihuana” cigarettes and only succumbs to their “self-will erasing effect” until the end of the third one, after which she is unable to walk and is carried away giggling.
- A dastardly villain who eventually confesses absolutely EVERYTHING in a long, rambling monologue.
- A handsome young man who can scale steep cliffs (and crumbling castle walls) without benefit of climbing gear, and who (bonus feature!) drives a white Porsche 911 S with utter aplomb and finesse.
- Oh, and a fabulously unique and valuable ruby ring, which no one of the evil-doers seems to be able to recognize for what it is. (Among other priceless heirlooms which they casually dismiss and bundle away as “junk”. Hmmm, not quite as sophisticated as all that, then, these out-for-the-main-chance types.)
There. How can one resist all of that? And there’s more. Oh yes, much, much more!