Long ago, I outgrew horror novels, save for an occasional ghost story, mainly because they are so graphically violent, and are nothing but a big fat giant gore fest, which only gross me out. But, tell me the story has a Gothic feel to it, and you will have me eating out of your hand, which is why I was so eager to dive into this story.
Oxford is a setting that immediately conjures up a vision of rich history, and this novel pays homage to that atmosphere, but adds a dark, creepy undertone by suggesting the presence of a secret society within the prestigious halls of Raleigh. Not just any secret society, but one with a very, very sinister reputation.
When Cassie Blackwell receives a package indicating her deceased mother had once attended Raleigh, and lived a life Cassie knew absolutely nothing about, she realizes she must find a way into the school in order to discover what drove her mother to madness, and hopefully discover her father's identity.
Once she has managed to obtain a scholarship, and arrives at Oxford, she settles in with her roomie, Evie, and begins her research. But, she soon discovers the dark side of Raleigh, which appears to have a high level of suicides among the students. She also combats aggressive peers, a professor who attempts to force her departure, and a sudden onslaught of strange occurrences, that seems to link back to her mother and a certain secret society.
As Cassie gets closer to the truth, she realizes she must put a stop to the evil that permeates Raleigh, indeed all of Oxford, and beyond, but must put herself in extreme danger, physically and psychologically to achieve that goal. Will Cassie gain all the answers to her questions or will she be silenced once and for all?
This story reminds me of those chilling Gothic horror novels written by Barbara Michaels, and the movies done back in the seventies, that gave me the heebie jeebies and had me jumping at any little noise while watching them.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a modern tale, but it has that dark, heavy atmospheric backdrop, with all the characters being suspicious or menacing, making me nervous, unsure of who to trust, keeping me on edge, with a constant feeling of foreboding.
Cassie, the main protagonist, can be abrupt, and occasionally rude, but who could blame her under the circumstances? However, she is also brave, with amazing tenacity, and a willingness to take risks in order to save lives, which makes her a true heroine.
Some may not understand this approach to Gothic horror, and might not appreciate the somewhat understated build up, which relies on the dark undertones, dialogue, and stunning revelations to deliver psychological blows to the reader, and some will perhaps disparage some of the cornier moments, which I readily admit were present on occasion, as well as the highly implausible events, and a conclusion that was almost too easy, considering the characters had to battle this very powerful and far reaching evil entity, which has been around for a very long time.
I do strongly encourage the reader to keep an open mind, however, because all the Gothic elements are spot on, but, in my humble opinion this book certainly belongs in the horror genre, too.
But, if you are looking for the typical slasher, with lots of blood, and gag worthy imagery, you won’t find it here. Instead, you will have to use your brain and allow your imagination to run free.
But, don’t let that fool you, because there are several truly shocking twist, and horrifying developments along the way, a combination that keeps the horror and suspense both understated and taut, building to a terrifying crescendo.
Simply put, this is a good old fashioned chiller, and I have to say I enjoyed every single jolt of surprise, all the spine tingles, every chill and thrill along the way, making this my kind of spooky tale.
Overall, this is a well written, Gothic horror novel, perfect for reading alone, on a dark and stormy night...
Recommended to those who like Gothic elements, horror, and suspense thrillers.
At prestigious Oxford University, an American student searches for the truth about her mother’s death in this eerie, suspenseful thriller that blends money, murder, and black magic.
You can’t keep it from her forever. She needs to know the truth.
Cassandra Blackwell arrives in Oxford with one mission: to uncover the truth about her mother’s dark past. Raised in America, with no idea that her mother had ever studied at the famed college, a mysterious package now sends her across the ocean, determined to unravel the secrets that her mother took to her grave. Plunged into the glamorous, secretive life of Raleigh College, Cassie finds a world like no other: a world of ancient tradition, privilege—and murder.
Beneath the hallowed halls of this storied university there is a mysterious force at work . . . A dark society that is shaping our world, and will stop at nothing to keep its grip on power. Cassie might be the only one who can stop them—but at what cost?