The Gabriel Hounds: Suspense with a hashish haze

The plot of The Gabriel Hounds is one that Catherine Morland would have loved, had that Jane Austen creation lived in the 1960’s drug culture.

Christy Mansel is on a package tour of the Middle East when she bumps into her second cousin, Charles, who’s on a business trip.

The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart
M. S. Mill Co. 1967, 320 p. 1967 bestseller #9. My grade: B.

Christy and Charles decide to look up their Great Aunt Harriet, an eccentric recluse,  taking separate vehicles.

When her tour group heads home, Christy stays on in Beirut, hires a car and driver and goes to Dar Ibrahim, her great aunt’s crumbling palace in the Lebanon mountains.

Hamid, Christy’s driver, shoulders their way in over the objections of the old Arab porter.

They’re greeted by John Lethman, a young researcher who says he came to Lebanon doing research and Lady Harriet took him into her household.

Christy finds him plausible, given her Aunt Harriet’s fondess for young men.

Hamid sees the signs of a hashish smoker.

Mary Stewart keeps the story moving, with just enough sexual tension between the cousins to make Christy interesting when she’s alone on the page.

Stewart lets Christy talk far more to strangers than any reasonably intelligent young woman alone in a foreign land would do, but most readers will finish the novel before they notice.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni


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Linda Aragoni

I'm passionate about helping people learn through the medium of nonfiction writing. Although I occasionally have an idea of my own, I mostly build education tools by recycling and repurposing other folks' ideas.

9 thoughts on “The Gabriel Hounds: Suspense with a hashish haze”

  1. I like your interesting review; I dipped into this book again recently and was moved by the description of Damascus given Syria’s destruction since this novel was written.

    I am a huge Mary Stewart fan, my blog is all about her. Have you read many Mary Stewarts?


    1. Your comment about the Damascus description struck a chord with me. I often find when reading vintage novels that the most interesting elements for today’s readers is how some place or or some aspect of culture has changed over time.

      I’ve not read many of Mary Stewart’s novels. In recent years I’ve been reading the bestsellers of 1900-1969. Stewart had just two bestsellers during that time: This Rough Magic was the other. What do you think is the best of her post-1969 work? I’m finishing rereading Trollope’s Palliser novels now. I’m open to “suggestions for further reading,” as the textbooks say.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, I think that is a lovely bonus in vintage reads (or sometimes a nasty shock, in terms of attitudes towards ‘others’).

        In UK ads, Mary Stewart’s writing was described as ‘every one a best-seller’ but I have no idea what sales figures this claim is based on.

        Mary Stewart’s Merlin series began in 1970 with The Crystal Cave and marks a move away from suspense to historical fiction/fantasy: these books were well received and I believe that sales dwarfed those of her earlier books. So the Crystal Cave might be a good place to start.

        If you like children’s books, MS published three of these after 1970. The Little Broomstick has been made into a Japanese animation due to be released later this year. This is a lovely and charming short story in the UK issue of the book but I understand that her US publishers pruned the story to its bare bones. I don’t know if the same happened to Ludo and the Star-horse.

        The post-1970 suspense novels are much gentler than the early novels, especially after Touch Not the Cat. I think my favourite would be Thornyhold, but this might be partly because of the *possible* glimpses into the author’s own childhood.


      2. Thank you for taking time to share your insights, Allison. I’m not a big fan of fantasy fiction, but I do still read children’s literature (I’m currently reading *The Wind in the Willows* again) and I enjoy a good suspense novel. I’ll look for The Little Broomstick at, where it’s often possible to get UK editions, and into Stewart’s work after 1970.

        Thanks for the recommendations.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You are the second wordpress blogger in recent weeks to mention The Wind in the Willows! I really must remedy this lack in my reading.

        If you acquire a copy, I hope you enjoy The Little Broomstick.


      4. I checked Alibris for a copy of The Little Broomstick. Since you’d warned about the difference between US and UK versions, I looked for the 1972 edition. I found one copy for close to $4000, which would be over £3000! Maybe Stewart’s publisher didn’t expect the book to be popular, hence the scarcity.

        I did find copies of both The Little Broomstick and Thornyhold through the regional library system and have ordered both to read.

        Thanks for the suggestions. Hope you find and enjoy The Wind in the Willows.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Oh my! I had no idea. In the UK there is the first edition and at least two pb issues so it’s not too rare here – thankfully!
        The Little Broomstick is being re-issued here this year sometime when the animation, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, is released – may lead to cheaper copies?


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