The Witch Door by Elisabeth Ogilvie

Published in 1959
Set in Maine

back of book jacket:
A Season of Love and Fear
Meagan builds a new life for herself on her lovely island after Craig mysteriously leaves. When he returns, she begins to fear him, especially as a threat to her love for Richard.

But Craig is more than a threat. Megan learns that he’s spreading vicious rumors among her neighbors; that he’s lied to her about his past; that he’s connected with subversive groups…and that her very survival depends on the whims of a man she can hardly believe she once loved!

I simply adore Ogilvie’s books. She is the one that sparked my love for Maine. Her Bennett Island books are my favorites. I love the lobster-men and the boats and the salt air. Odd since I don’t like seafood or really even swimming in the ocean! But I am drawn by the lifestyle and the landscape.

In this book Megan’s husband left her 8 yrs. ago while she was still in the hospital after giving birth to their third child. She and the kids went on to make a life. Richard Hendries an old family friend, turned love interest has proposed marriage to her. Her 15 year old son, Chris, loved Richard until he wanted to marry his mother. He hasn’t given up hope his dad will return someday. Megan has foolishly let him believe his dad was lost in the Korean War and he sees him as a hero. Megan was weak where Chris was concerned and let him rule her life and decision making as she didn’t want to upset him. She purchased a summer house on an island in Maine and her and the children had spent the last 7 summers there in idyllic bliss. She promises Richard she will set things straight with Chris while they are on Fairweather Island so they can move ahead with their plans to marry. But before she can do that Craig, her long lost husband, shows up unexpectedly and throws a monkey wrench into the works! He makes no attempt to explain himself and shows no remorse, but uses the kids, especially Chris, to prolong his visit. He seems different, there’s an edge to him that creates fear in Megan. He even creates division among the island people and Megan. Then an old acquaintance from Craig’s past shows up and the whole atmosphere changes and Craig is a whole different person with him there. What do all the solo trips to town and to Mokinoc Island mean? Who is Stella on Mokinoc Island. What secrets does she know that she has to be hushed up and what are Craig and Paul planning to do to her? Will Chris see his father for who he really is? What we do know is Craig is hiding a deadly secret. Can Megan protect her children and find her way back to Richard?

This tale was a little weak for an Ogilvie. Not quite up to par with the others I’ve read. I wanted to smack Megan most of the time and I don’t think she did that great a job of building up suspense. But for me any Ogilvie book is delicious just for her wonderful descriptions of island life. I feel the sea spray, smell the salt air and briefly I am transported to Maine.

Here’s a sample:
All afternoon the sea wind flowed into the house through the outside doors and under the old many-paned sashes propped up on notched sticks. From room to room the inner doors were held back by a variety of doorstops; a splintery lobster-pot buoy with an unknown name on it, tide-borne from some great distance to the outer shore of Fairweather; a stone bristling with quartz crystals, miniature leaning towers; old conch shells with fluted edges and pink linings. The shells had been in the house when Megan bought it from Markie. His great-grand-uncle who had gone whaling in the South Seas had brought them home.

As for the doors themselves, the thumb latches were worn sharp and thin by a century and a half of use and had a way of opening themselves when they were shut; first one would click open and then another, until it seemed as if some mysterious presence were passing through the house, never shutting a door behind it. The doors were painted white, and their panelling formed crosses. 

‘Christian doors they called them’, Markie’s wife said, but Markie said with the grimness of one who has fought to maintain his position for years, ‘Witch doors.’

When she woke up in the morning, a soft damp wind was blowing the curtains into the room, and the sky was the colour of pearl. 

Then she saw the mass of rushing silver below the surface, a school of herring running before the oncoming dory. Now and then single flashing bodies shot off to the sides, but the mass kept together, slipping through the water at incredible speed… She was wholly engrossed in the spectacle below her; she thought she had never seen anything so weirdly beautiful. When the herring carrier came for them, they would be lifted out in a rain of glittering scales; flipping frantically, they would be dumped into the hole to die. But tonight they were swift and radiant, the very essence of life.

Peggy Ann

The Silent Ones by Elisabeth Ogilvie

“Here set the Stones the Priest-King had walked in his cloak of feathers, so long ago that he was only a dream, a myth, to the first Celtic and Pictish Christians who built their chapels and beehive cells on Leodhas…
The Viking raiders went wide of Thrace, believing that of they could not see the Stones, the Stones could not see them and thus they would be spared the awful magic of the unknown gods…
Over the centuries the peat built up around the Stones, but their power never lessened. For they could hide themselves from those who had no right to see them; sometimes they spoke…
The peat was cleared away. The scholars came and went as they will always come and go. And the Stones will stand, impervious to interpretation; all their successive mysteries will never be told…”
                                               From the prologue to The Silent Ones

Published in 1981
327 pages
To read the description from the book cover check out my earlier post about the this book when I first received it in the mail.

Set in Scotland (on the Isle of Lewis), one of my favorite locations. By one of my favorite authors. A mystery. What is not to love about this book? Ms. Ogilvie usually sets her novels in the state of Maine, which is what drew me to her in the first place, but this one is set in the land of her ancestors.

Our heroine, Alison Barbour, is on the last half of a year long sabbatical from her job as a scholar and author of books with titles like, Folklore in Fact and The Human Psyche. She is on a journey to the birthplace of her great grandmother, Christina MacLeod. A small village named Torsaig, on the Isle of Lewis (or Leodhas in the Gaelic), Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Christina left Leodhas as a young girl all alone and immigrated to America. All Alison has to go on is a faded photo of her when she was young and a few passing comments her dad had made over the years. Alison is the spitting image of Christina, including the flaming red hair. The Stones of Callanish are on the Isle of Lewis and Alison is not only interested in them because her great grandmother grew up around them, but because of her work. The Stones, referred to as the Silent Ones, are the Scottish equivalent to England’s Stonehenge and shrouded in mystery and magic. When Alison meets the village storyteller she also finds out there is a secret surrounding her great grandmother and why she had to leave the island. Was there dishonor brought on her family? Does it involve the death of a young pastor?

Alison also writes torrid romances under the pseudonym Mariana Granger. These novels make her a nice little nest egg and its her secret, no one knows she is Mariana! What a romantic setting this will make for her next novel. And that gorgeous Ewen Chisholm will serve well as the model for the hero!

Her last day on the QE2 before arriving in England she is joined at her table by Norris Elliot an investment specialist and another couple on a vacation/business trip. She never dreams she will ever see any of them again as she is going on to Scotland. But they keep showing up in Lewis! What is going on here? Is it a coincidence or something more sinister? What does the ancient Book of St. Neacal have to do with it? Does Ewen have the book, or know where it is? Why does Ewen seem to think he is the Stones protector? Will he and Alison end up together? Does Norris really love her as he declares or is she just an ends to the means? The story takes a sudden turn when Alison comes upon a dead body laying among the Stones early one morning on her way to Ewens. It’s someone she knows, too!

Quotes from the book:
Mrs. MacBain didn’t answer at once. After a moment she said, “He’s a man of great delicacy and tact. She seems to have left in some disgrace, and he didn’t know if he should tell you.”
“I love the lambs,” Alison said. “They’re one of the great pleasures of Lewis for me…This shortbread is good.: She held the plate out to him but he shook his head. Regretfully she didn’t take more, so as not to appear greedy. “I was looking up a particular saint in one of your books, but I didn’t get that far in the index, St. Neacal.” No detectable response. “The one who wrote the famous Book,: she added.
“Oh, that one.”
“Would you know where the Book is?”
“I’m not sure.” He sounded indifferent. Evasive was more like it.
She and Mrs. Mac Bain drove home late in a deep twilight that turned the world into one ordinarily seen only through purple glass. When Alison went to bed, she found pleasure in remembering Bernera. She imagined the clustered or isolated houses huddled comfortable under the violet sky, lighted windows here and there glowing rosily, the sheep quiet as boulders with the lambs tucked in at the ewes’ sides; the broad fields going down to the loch, melting into it really, so from the stone house one couldn’t tell where the land left off and water began, while across at Breasclete a few lights pierced the thick soft dark like stars.

I know, here’s another book that’s out of print! Most likely you won’t be able to get it at your library anymore either. Try an inter-library loan, sometimes they still have her books in large print. Sorry:) but if you love stories set in Scotland you will really like this one! Alison travels all over the Island and I had great fun following her around on my beautiful wall map of Scotland! I know, I’m a little bit of a fanatic, but I read a lot of Scottish novels and it helps when Katrina or Evee post about places they’ve been!

You can find this book used at AbeBooks and Alibris. Sorry couldn’t find any in the UK. (well one but it was very expensive!)

Peggy Ann

A Straggler Arrives

One last Elisabeth Ogilvie book arrived in the mail Friday from the order I posted about earlier this week. This one is set in Scotland and sounds very intriguing! Can’t wait to get started!

‘The Silent Ones’   1981
“Alison Barbour, scholarly author of such erudite works as Folklore in Fact, Legend and the Human Psyche, leads a double life. Off-duty from her academic pursuits she writes sexy thrillers as ‘Mariana Grange.’ Though kept a careful secret from everybody, Mariana brings in healthy royalty checks.

With five months left of a leave of absence from teaching, and Mariana dollars in her bank account, Alison, her parents now dead, decides to go in search of her roots. Her clue is a photograph of a great-grandma whom she closely resembles. The identification on the back reads: ‘Christina MacLeod. Born in eighteen hundred and forty-nine, at Torsaig, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.’

So it’s off to the Hebrides where Alison expects nothing more than relaxation, a chance to explore and to meet, perhaps, the descendants of people who might have known the red-haired Christina. But fog-shrouded, rainy Lewis has more than the mysterious Standing Stones at Callanish to offer visitors. Evil doings have been swept in from across the sea.

Before her departure from the States, Alison has been told about the Book of St. Neacal, by a seventh-century Celtic monk. The book, a treasure trove of word-of-mouth histories and legends, disappeared along about the eleventh century. Its monetary value is almost as extraordinary as its historical worth. More than one person is seeking the Book. The trail has led to Lewis and stirred up violence, associated and unassociated, in which Alison becomes enmeshed.

The finale is as chilling a finish as Elisabeth Ogilvie has ever conjured up to tingle her readers’ spines.”

This book is falling apart though! The description said good condition, but when it came and I opened it a large section fell out in my hands! The glue has given way from the binding. Should I send it back? It was only .01* plus the shipping and handling. Maybe it’s time to give a try at book repair! I’m off to research this idea and see if I can get book binding glue! Wish me luck!

When the Music Stopped by Elizabeth Ogilvie

Miss Ogilvie wrote wonderful fiction set in Maine usually on an Island off the coast and centered around the lobstering community. She lived on a 33 acre farm on Gay’s Island, Maine. I have read just about all her books. Her first was published in 1940. She wrote more than 40 novels, 13 of which were young adult novels. Of all these books she only wrote one mystery/suspense! What a loss for mystery lovers everywhere as she did a superb job! Complex plot, great characters, and quite a shocking ending. Not to mention the gorgeous setting in Maine. 

Of course this book is out of print. It will be well worth your time to look for a copy though! Published in 1989. 326 pages.

From the dust jacket:

‘When novelist Eden Winter emerges from completing her latest fictional adventure, she finds life around her has changed. The usually tranquil coastal community of Job’s Harbor is all abuzz over the return of the elderly Esmond sisters. Old timers breathlessly recount how, sixty years ago, Marianne, a brilliant young pianist, eloped with the scoundrel Guy Rigby. Guy, a married man and a respected banker, cleaned out the vault when he left, ruining many local families. Now widowed, Marianne has come home to Job’s Harbor with her violinist sister to retire.
As the ancient scandal is revived, the old hostilities are rekindled and gossip spreads like wildfire. Meanwhile, the wealthy sisters arrival also sparks considerable interest among their prospective heirs, who immediately vie to ingratiate themselves.
Small wonder, then, that when the sisters inaugurate weekly musical gatherings at their elegant estate, attendance and emotions run high. Eden herself, ever observant writer, finds the two talented and sophisticated ladies utterly charming, and the scene and cast of characters fascinates her. Here too Eden first encounters the darkly intriguing Nick Raintree, a handsome newcomer who seems bent on unsettling her longtime but perhaps too comfortable hometown romance.
Suddenly violence erupts and Eden finds herself caught up in a real life mystery more chilling than any plot she could have devised. Drawn deeper and deeper into a web of deceptive appearances, she follows a twisting and perilous trail to a shattering conclusion’

This book can be purchased at Abe’s Books    at Thrift Books    at Amazon
at Alibris

This post is part of Crime Fiction Alphabet @ Mysteries in Paradise. This week is the letter O.  Stop over and see what everyone else is reading!

Peggy Ann

Jennie About to Be by Elizabeth Olgilvie

book 1 of the Jennie Trilogy
‘In 1809, marriage was the best a spirited, healthy, and intelligent girl could hope for, especially if she was an orphan without a fortune. Jennie Hawthorne, in London with an aunt who promises to make a good marriage for her, hates being exhibited as prime wife material and is desperately homesick for the family home by the North Sea – Until she falls in love with Nigel Gilchrist, a handsome officer in the Household Cavalry. Newly married, Jennie moves to the Scottish Highlands, where Nigel will serve as manager (factor) for his older brother at the family estate of Linnmore.
Jennie’s delight with her seemingly ideal new life is short-lived, however. She soon witnesses the cruelty of the infamous Highland clearances: tenant cottagers forcibly evicted from their homes by ‘progressive’ lairds to make way for more profitable sheep. Horrified by the sight of burnt-out cottages, Jennie is even more appalled when she finds that Nigel is involved in the evictions.

Only the silent and sardonic Alick Gilchrist fights against the clearances. Defying Nigel and his brother, Jennie also does what she can to help the cottagers. But their efforts bring disaster: Alick becomes a hunted fugitive and Jennie loses her husband and home in one violent instant. although she barely knows Alick, she must throw in her lot with his as they face an arduous journey across desolate mountains to escape the strife-torn Highlands.’

I have read many Elizabeth Ogilvie books, all set in Maine, predominately on the islands of Maine. I first fell in love with Maine thru her novels and now it feels like home to me. This one is different. It is predominately set in Scotland in 1809. The first 8-9 chapters are set in England, introducing you to Jennie. Jennie was born and raised in Northumberland on the edge of the North Sea. She has 3 sisters. Their mother had died and they were very close to their father. She was basically a farm girl. Her father dies and the girls are separated.  Sylvia was already married to a parson, Ianthe had gotten a position as a companion and governess in a wealthy household in Switzerland, Sophie was 15 and was welcomed into the cousin’s family that inherited the home thru entail. Only Jennie was sent away to live with an Aunt and Uncle in London. They were determined to find Jennie a good husband. Jennie was ready to run away from all the hustle and bustle and pretense involved in London Society when she met Capt. Nigel Gilchrist. It was love at first sight for both of them. 

 The story was a little slow for me up until she marries Nigel and moves to Scotland and then it takes off!  Nigel is a wonderful, loving, kind husband. She feels safe with him and trust him. Nigel is in line to inherit the large estate of Linnmore as his brother is childless. But Jennie doesn’t really feel comfortable in ‘high society’. Will she fit in? She believes Nigel will be a kind and good Laird and she is looking forward to making the people’s lives easier when she is Lady of the estate. But, in a second, Jennie is thrown into a circumstance where she sees a side of her husband that she can not believe exist. How will she go on? In a brief innocent encounter with Nigel’s illegitimate cousin all of their lives are changed for ever.

Jennie must flee with Alick. Can she trust him? It’s a very long hike, thru very rough terrain and dangerous places, to make it to Fort Williams and a ship to America for Alick and passage home to Northumberland for Jennie. Does she have what it takes to get there? Will Alick, a quiet man she doesn’t even really know, care for her welfare? What will happen when they get to Fort William? Is the law there waiting for them? Does Alick make it on a ship and does Jennie go on to her sister’s back home? 

This is a well written book, with good character development and absolutely gorgeous descriptions of the Highlands. Ms. Ogilvie is wonderful at describing something so that you feel like you can see it and smell it and feel it!  I can’t wait now for the next 2 books in the series get here!

 For those of you in the UK click HERE to purchase