Her books generally always have the same elements: Mysterious, unexplained and spoooooky happenings in/around a creaky old secluded house. Antiques (usually). Cats (often). And, of course, romance.
In The Crying Child, our narrator is the feisty (Barbara Michaels heroines are almost always feisty) and fiercely independent (ditto) Joanna. Some years back, she moved to the West Coast to prove that she could Make It On Her Own without the help of her bazillionaire brother-in-law. But now that her sister has fallen into a deep depression after suffering a miscarriage, she's headed back East for an extended visit.
Of course, it turns out that Mary's depression isn't your garden variety depression:
"You don't understand," she said again. "He's closer all the time. But I keep hearing him crying."
He was the only one she could be talking about, and yet . . . Closer all the time? Yes, that was fine, the way marriage ought to be, especially after a shared loss. But it didn't fit with the other things she had said, about Ran's conspiring to have her committed. And--Ran crying?
"Ran?" I said.
"Ran?" She laughed, a sudden, bright laugh. "Ran doesn't cry," she said. "No. But he cries. It is a boy, you know. His name is Kevin."
Ooooo. So is there really a crying child? Or is someone using a tape recorder to try and send Jo's beloved sister around the bend? Or is there a more spooooky explanation??? Who is the scary lady Jo keeps seeing? Why is was someone buried OUTSIDE of the family graveyard? (The questions really pile up in the Barbara Michaels books.)
I'll give you one guess about whether or not the supernatural is involved. I mean, really. This is a Barbara Michaels book***. And, as her books almostalways are, it's fun. I didn't feel that the romance was romance-y enough, and the dialogue was pretty dated (as were the hilarious clothing descriptions), but I enjoyed it enormously, especially given the fact that I haven't made it all the way through a book in weeks. While it wasn't one of her best, it did feature some great minor characters, a COMPLETELY AWESOMELY over-the-top scene straight out of a REALLY bad movie (it involved a painting imparting a DIRE WARNING), and it had lines like:
Not that Will was the most cheerful companion in the world. I assumed he was sorry he was with me instead of being back at the house admiring Anne's professional brilliance and her blue stretch pants****.
HA! Also, it's set in Maine and she clearly did at least a modicum of research and also she mocked the Wedding Cake House. Which is always a good time in my book.
*For those of you who don't already know -- Barbara Michaels is Elizabeth Peters. Depending on who she's writing as, she dresses differently in her author photos. As Elizabeth Peters, she's usually wearing a pith helmet:
Whereas her Barbara Michaels photos are generally a tad classier:
Well, if you don't count the ones that feature Blossom hats:
And then there's my personal favorite -- the one that is quite Jacqueline-Kirby-in-Die-For-Love-esque:
**As you may have surmised, Ran is short for Randall. Being somewhat dim, I didn't realize that until it was actually spelled out for me -- I kept thinking, "What the crap kind of a name is RAN??" Not that that has any bearing on anything. But then again, my footnotes rarely do.
***By which I mean: Elizabeth Peters = books with human villains. Barbara Michaels = books with supernatural phenomena.
****I had no idea that stretch pants were in (or even existed) in 1971. Seriously?
Book source: Library copy.
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