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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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Dust jacket for This Rough MagicThis Rough Magic is a romantic mystery set on Corfu where Lucy Warring, an actress of modest talent whose first London gig folded after a short run, is visiting her pregnant sister whose husband has had to stay in Rome to work.

Lucy’s sister and brother-in-law rent one of their island properties to the acclaimed actor Sir Julian Gale and his composer son, Max, who keeps uninvited visitors away from the property. Another of the Forli family properties on Corfu is rented to an Englishman who is working on a book of his photographs.

On her first morning in Corfu, Lucy is horrified to hear shots aimed at a dolphin frolicking in the cove. Max Gale is the only person in sight.

Thus Mary Stewart sets up a familiar plot in which the initially antagonistic couple solve a mystery and find love.

Stewart weaves into the novel elements of an old tale that Corfu was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s magic island in The Tempest, heading chapters with quotations from the play.

Steward also lards characters’ conversation with literary allusions. The characters, however, aren’t substantial enough to bear a literary novel.

This Rough Magic remains a boilerplate novel, more rough than magic.

This Rough Magic
By Mary Stewart
M. S. Mill and William Morrow
1964
254 pages
My grade: C
 

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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