Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Moon in Shadow by Aynn Westminster [1974]

Couldn't obtain a scan. Think turquoise, hot pink, teal and gray. Upper 1/2 of book is turquoise with title in hot pink [I kid you not]. Midsection is an uneven line of grayish pine trees and glimpses of jagged snowy mountain peaks. Lower right-hand [to viewer] corner is small grayish impression of a mansion. Mid- to lower-left hand corner is dominated by Claudia, who looks a bit like Nancy Barrett of "Dark Shadows" fame: Her long blonde hair is flowing in the full-moon light; wearing a teal-colored dress and plucking at the petals of a black orchid while gazing at the mansion.

*Sigh.* I sped-read/jumped to the story's end. I would bash this book five ways to Friday, but out of respect for the author who WAS published I'll opt for some hopefully constructive criticism. This story DID have a ton of potential.

Claudia, a 21 year old popular model [in the days before Super Models], has learned her mother has just died. This is a huge shock, as Claudia's "known" her mother died 20 years ago; she was raised by her aunt. That was all a lie; her mother had "issues" and gave Claudia up, led a selfish life. Moonhall was her mother's estate, willed by her husband. Claudia is accompanied by Bob, her "mentor" and photographer [so far they've avoided an actual affair], to claim her inheritance and perform a graveside ritual which Claudia's mother insisted upon.

Upon her arrival at Moonhall, Claudia hopes to discover some very real facts about her mother -- photos, momentos, keepsakes, possessions. Unfortunately all was disposed of/burned upon mother's request immediately after death. Only Ann -- personal maid and confidant -- can fill in the blanks.

Enter Philip. He's Claudia's stepbrother, who should be the rightful heir of Moonhall except his father willed the estate to Philip's stepmother; theirs was a mutual hatred, and Philip is understandably sore that Claudia is heir to Moonhall.

1. Claudia. She's a terrific character. Instead of turning her into a flightly floozy who flits into the arms of 3 different men in turnstile fashion, why not make her brave and independent?

2. Moonhall. It seemed to be fabulous. But we're only briefly introduced to the mansion and nearly ALL the action takes place in "the great outdoors."

3. Ann. She knew Claudia's mother intimately. Claudia has been curious about her mother, yet all interaction between Claudia and Ann is superficial and cursory. Ann could have been a terrific character and helped to drive the plot; but nope. She's relegated to the backburner and we only see Ann when it's suddenly convenient.

4. Same for Philip. He's a bit menacing, bitter, perhaps even warped. He was the other potentially "excellent" character who could have (should have) lent a lot to the story; but alas he too is relegated to the wings, and only called onto the story's stage when immediately needed.

A pity!!

5. The sexual/romantic scenes are bizarre. Dick and Ann are getting hot for each other when they've been maliciously locked into an earthen cellar in the middle of the forest [they could go UNdiscovered there and die], with the carcass of a dead dog in a nearby trunk and the stench of rotten potatoes permeating the air?? Later, after being attacked by a psycho wearing a bear suit, Gavin and Claudia start "getting it on" despite her having just been attacked and nearly killed [and deep cuts on back/arms], her fear/mistrust of Gavin, and after putting on Gavin's deceased wife's dress (her other clothing is ruined from the attack). I don't even want to try and psychoanalyze the author's sexual...notions. >:-\

6. Bob. Claudia's "mentor" and photographer of years' duration, who fondly calls her his "Gold Chameleon" because she makes him a lot of $$$ and also because her features and expressions are so changeable. He suddenly and inexplicably packs up and abandons Claudia to Moonhall. HUH? No reason nor explanation is given; he simply tells others to tell Claudia "Don't call me, I'll call you." If anything, Bob wouldn't simply give up a huge CASH COW like that.

The overall story is seriously disjointed. The author writes absurd things in a feeble attempt to build atmosphere and tension, like "Claudia began to feel that the people she knew and trusted weren't the people she had known." ??? Um...except for Bob, EVERYONE referred to are still strangers she's known for 24 hours.

Either the author didn't know what to do with story elements or took the easy way out.

Trixie gives the story 2 Paws for mentioning a cat who leaps out of a closet and hisses at Claudia. I guess the cat was hissing at the story itself.

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