When Michael Flint is asked by American friends to look over an old Shropshire house they have unexpectedly inherited, he is reluctant to leave the quiet of his Oxford study.
But when he sees Charect House, its uncanny echoes from the past fascinate him – even though it has such a sinister reputation no one has lived in it for almost a century.
It’s not until Michael meets the young widow, Nell West, that the menace within the house wakes. Is Nell’s small daughter the catalyst that causes the Dead Man’s Knock to be heard again and calls up the nightmare figure bearing a flickering light with a grisly power? The figure with black pits where his eyes should be, who seems to threaten not only Nell’s daughter, but also Michael’s goddaughter, thousands of miles away?
Old diaries, found during the renovations, provide Michael and Nell with glimpses of a darkness that once engulfed Charect House and its occupants. But can the truth be uncovered before it causes new tragedy?
At first I enjoyed the gentle undertow that tugged at my mind. At one level I knew I was falling asleep, that I was on the borderlands of dreaming, but it didn’t seem to matter. I even thought – perhaps Harry will be in the dream. He is, sometimes. He comes walking towards me, smiling, holding out his hands, and he looks so dashing in his uniform, and I’m aware of feeling so proud of him, and of such soaring delight at seeing him after so many years…
At first I thought he was in the dream, and I think I smiled as I lay back in the deep old chair. It felt as if he was closer to me than ever before and when I turned my head slightly I became aware of a hand moving lightly over my face, tracing the features, exactly as he always did. If I opened my eyes he would be there – this time he really would, and the bloodbath of the Somme would never have happened…
That was when I opened my eyes.
And oh God, oh God, standing over the chair, his face inches from my own, was a man I had never seen in my life – a man with a very pale face and black shadows half-concealing the upper part of his face. He was so close I could smell his body-scent – dry and sour – and his hands were crawling over my face like spiders…
I didn’t scream, but it was a close thing. I gasped and started back though, and at once he flinched as if he had been burned. In that moment, I made to jump up from the chair, but it overturned and I fell backwards in an awkward jumble. By the time I scrambled to my feet, he had gone, but the door into the hall was swinging softly and slowly shut. Exactly as if someone had just gone through it and had pushed it closed.
I’m no braver and no more cowardly than anyone else, but I’m a modern female, and I refused, categorically and absolutely, to be frightened of something that had most likely been a dream. So I crossed the room and pulled the door open.
The hall was silent and still. Or was it? I glanced uneasily at the stair, then resolutely opened all the doors downstairs and looked inside. Nothing. I went through to the back of the house, to the big stone-flagged scullery, and the smaller scullery off it, which must have been a kind of laundry room. Lying across the cracked stones of the floor, was a man-shaped shadow, and as I stood there, frozen with fear, it moved slightly. My heart leapt into my throat and I thought – he’s here! He’s standing behind the old copper. He’s watching me – I can feel that he is…
Publisher: Severn House Paperbacks Ltd (30 Nov. 2011)
Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.1 x 21.3 cm