Archive for the ‘Evelyn Berckman’ Category

The Victorian Album by Evelyn Berckman ~ 1973. This edition: Doubleday, 1973. Hardcover. 222 pages.

Rather a good gothic-suspense-supernaturalish-thriller, set in the time of its writing, the early 1970s.

Lorna Teasdale, sixtyish, never married, shares her accommodations and her life with her twenty-something niece, Christabel, who was orphaned at a young age and became Lorna’s adored ward.

The two coexist in perfect harmony, with Christabel doing very well in her calling as an assistant antique dealer/interior decorator – to become a museum curator is her long-term goal – and Lorna working as a much-in-demand private seamstress.

They are getting by nicely, until they are evicted from their London apartment due to its upcoming demolition; new flats are planned for its location. Scrambling to find an affordable place to live in the red-hot housing market – does this sound familiar to anyone? – some things never change! – the two end up leasing the entire first floor of a rundown pre-Victorian house, owned by the dour and sour Mrs Rumbold and her hard-as-nails social-climbing daughter.

Unemployed due to the relocation, Lorna, once the flat renovations are complete, finds herself bored and at loose ends. Giving in to an impulse, she takes advantage of her landlady’s morning shopping routine to snoop about in the attic of the house, and on her first foray returns to her flat with a dusty Victorian-era photograph album, with which she becomes obsessed. Who are the people portrayed, and what are their relationships to each other? To the house itself? And which oneĀ  – or ones – of them were involved in the murder-in-this-very-house which Mrs Rumbold has referred to with salacious glee but not much detail?

Channeling the past in a very up close and personal way, Lorna finds herself drawn into a situation in which she feels that other (other-worldly!) forces are at work…

All in the very best, very chilling, gorgeously sardonic Norah Lofts tradition.

Why haven’t I heard of Evelyn Berckman before? She’s good at this genre, if this novel is a fair sample of her style.

And good at other things, too. Check this out, from the dust jacket flyleaf of The Victorian Album:

Very curious now, I looked for more information regarding Evelyn Berckman, and a very few minutes of internet research took me to this, a cheerfully fulsome review at The Passing Tramp blog, in which Berckman is favourably compared to Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine.

This book was in a batch of odds and ends I’d picked up some years ago when I was keeping my bedridden elderly mother supplied with titles to please her in her book-a-day reading habit. I’m not sure if she got to this one, but if she did I’ll bet she liked it, as she was a Rendell/Vine aficionado, and was always up for a well-written but not taking-itself-too-seriously thriller.

I don’t know if I’ll be actively searching out more of Berckman’s titles, but if I see another in my travels I’ll certainly snap it up with anticipation of another diverting read.

An approving 6/10 for this one. Better than I expected it to be is my final verdict.

 

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