Footsteps in the Dark

Footsteps in the Dark

3.4 637
by Georgette Heyer

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What begins as an adventure soon becomes a nightmare...

The late Georgette Heyer was a very private woman. Her historical novels have charmed and delighted millions of readers for decades, though she rarely reached out to the public to discuss her works or private life. It is known that she was born in Wimbledon in August 1902, and her first novel, The Black Moth,

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What begins as an adventure soon becomes a nightmare...

The late Georgette Heyer was a very private woman. Her historical novels have charmed and delighted millions of readers for decades, though she rarely reached out to the public to discuss her works or private life. It is known that she was born in Wimbledon in August 1902, and her first novel, The Black Moth, was published in 1921.

Heyer published 56 books over the next 53 years, until her death from lung cancer in 1974. Heyer's large volume of works included Regency romances, mysteries and historical fiction. Known also as the Queen of Regency romance, Heyer was legendary for her research, historical accuracy and her extraordinary plots and characterizations. Her last book, My Lord John, was published posthumously in 1975. She was married to George Ronald Rougier, a mining engineer, and they had one son together, Richard.

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From One

'And I suppose this is the approach-course,' said Charles Malcolm. 'Full of natural hazards.'

His wife, Celia, replied with dignity: 'That is the tennis court.' Charles made a derisive noise. 'All it needs,' she said, eyeing him, 'is a little levelling.'

'All it needs,' said Charles rudely, 'is a hay-cutter and a steam-roller. And this is the place you wouldn't sell!'

His sister-in-law took up the cudgels. 'It's perfectly lovely, and you know it. As soon as Celia and I set eyes on it we fell for it.'

'That I can believe,' said Charles. 'A mullioned window or two, and a ruined chapel, and I'd expect you two to go over at the knees. But Peter was with you. What did he fall for? Beer at the local pub?'

'There's a trout-stream at the bottom of the garden,' Margaret pointed out.

'So there is,' Charles agreed. 'And another in the servants' hall for wet days. Bowers showed it to me.'

'Simply because there was a pane of glass out of one of the windows!' Celia said hotly. 'Of course the rain came in!'

Margaret tucked her hand in Charles' arm. 'Wait till you've seen your bedroom. It's got linen-fold panelling, and there's a cupboard which is all part of it, and which takes you ages to find.'

'That really is jolly,' Charles said. 'Then if anyone burgles our room he won't be able to find my dress-coat. I suppose I can mark the place with a cross.'

'No, you have a compass, and take bearings,' retorted his wife. 'Come on in, and we'll show you.'

They turned away from the tennis-court and began to walk back towards the house down one of the neglected paths that wound between flower-beds to the terrace on the south side of the building.

'Chas, can you look at it with the sun on that heavenly grey stone, and blame us for refusing to part with it?' Margaret exclaimed.

'I'll wait till I've seen my room,' Charles replied.

But he had to admit that this house, which had been left to his wife and her brother and sister, was artistically all that could be desired. Built originally many hundreds of years before of grey stone, much of it was now ruined, and much had been added at different periods, so that the present house was a rambling structure, set in wooded grounds where oaks, which had been there when the Conqueror landed, reared up huge gnarled trunks from out of a tangle of undergrowth. A drive of about a quarter of a mile in length twisted through the trees to the gates that opened on to the road which led to the village of Framley, a mile away if you went by road, but much less if you walked across the fields at the back of the house.

Down the road towards the village, but set back inside the Priory grounds, were the ruins of the chapel which had so captivated Celia's fancy. Dismantled during the Reformation, and later battered by Cromwell's cannon, not much of it now remained, but fragments of the walls rose up crumbling out of the grass. Here and there part of the walls remained to show the Gothic windows, but for the most part they were no more than a few feet in height.

The Priory itself had been restored so that the many rebuildings and additions had left little outward appearance of the old home of the monks. Celia, who had acquired a book on Old Abbeys, declared that the library, a big room giving on to the terrace, was the original refectory, but she admitted that the panelling was probably of later date.

The place had come to her quite unexpectedly. An uncle whom she, in company with Peter and Margaret, had visited at dutiful intervals during his lifetime, had bequeathed the Priory to his nephew and his two nieces. No lover of rural solitudes, he himself had never occupied the house. In his turn he had inherited it some five years before from his sister, who had lived there through marriage and widowhood. As she left it so it now stood, and no sooner had Celia Malcolm, and Peter and Margaret Fortescue seen it, than they declared it was just the place they had dreamed of for years. At least, the two sisters said so. Peter was less enthusiastic, but agreed it would be a pity to sell it.

It had been to let for quite a long time, but ever since the first tenants who rented the house two years after the death of its original owner, had left, no one had made even the smallest offer for it.

'Your uncle had a good deal of trouble over the house,' had said Mr Milbank, the solicitor. 'When she lived in it his sister never made any complaint, but she was an eccentric old lady, and it's conceivable she wouldn't have cared. But the fact of the matter is, Mrs Malcolm, the house has got rather a bad name. The people your uncle let it to took it for three years - and they left at the end of one. They said the place was haunted.'

'Oo!' said Margaret. 'What a thrill for us!'

The lawyer smiled. 'I shouldn't build on it, Miss Fortescue. I think you'll find that it's nothing more thrilling than rats. But I thought I'd warn you. So that if you feel you'd rather not take possession of a reputedly haunted house you might like me to follow up this offer.' He lifted up a sheet of notepaper that lay on his desk, and looked inquiringly at Peter.

'Is that the offer you wrote to us about?' Peter asked.

'Some fellow who saw the board up when he was motoring in that part of the world, and wanted to know particulars?' Mr Milbank nodded. Celia and Margaret turned anxiously to their brother, and began to urge the desirability of owning a country house so near to town, and yet so ideal in situation and character.

The trout stream won Peter over. Charles, a young barrister with a growing practice, had no time to waste, so he said, in going to look at a house which his wife was apparently set on inhabiting whether he liked it or not. He placed his trust in Peter.

'And nicely you've abused it,' he said, over tea in the library. 'For two months you three have dashed to and fro, doing what you called "getting it ready to live in." Incidentally you lulled my suspicions with lying stories about the house, till I almost believed it was something like your description. You' - he pointed an accusing finger at Margaret - 'said it was the ideal home. The fact that there was only one bathroom and a system of heating water that won't do more than one hot bath at a time, you carefully concealed.'

'Do you good to have a few cold baths,' remarked Peter, spreading jam on a slice of bread and butter. 'It isn't as though we propose to live here through the winter. Moreover, I don't see why we shouldn't convert one of the bedrooms into a second bathroom, and put in a better heating arrangement. Not immediately, of course, but at some future date.'

Charles eyed him coldly. 'And what about light? Oh, and a telephone! I suppose we can wire the house while we're about it. This must be what Celia called "getting a countryhouse for nothing." I might have known.'

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Footsteps in the Dark 3.4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 637 reviews.
slferguson More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite mysteries. I had a hard time finding it in paperback and am delighted to be able to purchase it for my nook so I don't have to go looking for it when I want to read it. It's part Gothic, part modern mystery. I love the way she twists the two together.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Written 1932, British. It was published the same year her only child/son was born. She did not consider it very good because it was written while she was pregnant, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Wonderful humor between the characters. Good suspense. The plot was somewhat predictable, but that didn’t matter to me because I loved the story and the people.
CorinaFL More than 1 year ago
I am not fond of English mysteries. I find the language cumbersome and the stories drawn out unnecessarily. All of this held true for this book. It was a very slow read for me. But if you like this type of mystery and are not hindered by the language, you might enjoy it.
Nikki May More than 1 year ago
Well, it was a free Friday book that didn't seem to be my usual style. However, I love to read. This book was a good one. I liked the older setting and really thought the characters were interesting. I had the mystery solved, but that didn't take away from it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
These may not be the most up to date books, but Anglophiles will love Georgette. She even provided the answer to a Trivia question on a cruise! What is the original name of the game badminton? Read them and find out.
Zhules More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down, I love this British author and her authentic dialog and characters. The haunted house aspect was very scary and the constable was hilarious! Laughed out loud. A must-read for this genre.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was long on details regarding actions that could have been explained in a paragraph. Whether one takes cream and/or sugar in one's tea should not be drawn out. The book read swiftly due, in part, to Ms Heyer's excellent use of language. The mystery was deterining the identity of the monk, why did he want the protagonests out of the Priory, and to what lenghts would he go to make certain they left? Ms Heyer certainly kept me guessing for those answers, and her characters were well developed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had some capturing moments. Overall it was a fun story with haunted passages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What starts out as a hauntedhouse turns into a suspense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'd never heard of this author before and was very pleased with this mystery. I liked the characters better than Agatha Christie's standard "props".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reminded me of Murder She Wrote. I was interested till the end and surprised it was easy to read due to the age.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My first reading of English mystery. I usually watch it on television. This book is by no means a disappointment. It does everything you expect a book to do. Goes into great detail about everything going on so that you are right there in every scene, hearing every word and accent. Keeps you guessing, but provides great mystery. No way is this book predictable to the point where you know the ending before getting half way through.I am now addicted to Mrs Heyer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a classic mystory. Although it is decades old, it is still a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Need some undemanding reading and want the frivolousness of a 1930s British country home mystery. It might have been au courant at the time. Now its chief interest lies in the period atmosphere it evokes. The blurb may have compared Heyer to Christie, but that under values Christie. Makes a decent enough reading experience in a time too hectic to concentrate on much.
Heather Bash More than 1 year ago
Fun mystery!
maryabeth_21 More than 1 year ago
It's all I could ask for, I kept thinking it was this person or that, but at the end it was somebody I wouldnt thought of pointing at!!!!!!! LOVE IT....
hls1966 More than 1 year ago
Three stars from me is good! Set in the English countryside post-WWI and written contemporaneously, the atmosphere, setting, humor, and social behaviors and attitudes are a pleasant distraction from modern life. While I found it slightly predictable on a few points, it was not dissapointingly so due to the enjoyable presentation. It is not, as some reviewers have suggested, written in "olde english". If you enjoy old movies (early 20th century), you'll find the dialogue very accessible. Even American movies of that era have similar dialogue. Think early Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. For a modern example, think The King's English.
NANABANANAMB More than 1 year ago
loved this book.I couldn't put it down until I was finished reading. Well written and full of suspense.I couldn't solve this one until the very end...well done Georgette.
elaine davis More than 1 year ago
Tightly constructed plot with no loose ends. The characters were believable , likeable and intelligent! No mean feat when considering some poor modern stuff passing as mysteries. The dialogue was especially witty and clever. I cant think how Ive missed Georgette Heyer all these years!
Pulpiteer0 More than 1 year ago
Terrific plot. A mystery tale with a proper ghost, intricately woven English detective work and fun mixed in.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You people should just read this novel yourselves and write your own review on this novel. I really enjoyed reading this novel very much. ShelleyMA
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My one big question which of course would have helped solve the mystery faster would be why werent there any dogs around jack russels or the pit bulls she usually had in her story? A few of these roaming the house or going for walks or sitting in dark would have put short the ghosts to men also nice german shepard to walk at night with policeman