Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Devil's Daughter by Daoma Winston [1971]

Cover scan obtained from Isn't that a pretty cover? Love the big black cat especially; its eyes are green and yellow. This novel is as good on the inside; I give it 5 Stars on 1 - 5. Trixie gives it an unprecedented 12 Paws: 4 each for the cat on the cover and the 2 kittens in the story. She advises all feline readers of this blog they WILL love this novel. ;-p

Sharon Benedict is a 24-year-old career gal who lives in Washington, D.C. She has a steady boyfriend, John, and a nosy roommate named Bix. A letter arrives from the mountains of central New Mexico, near Albuquerque; it's from May Dailey, an elderly woman who is Sharon's adoptive aunt (mother's friend). May resides in Dead Dolly Creek, a nearly abandoned town which was formerly part of a gold rush. Sharon spent carefree and idyllic summers there as a child and teenager; she and Cal were an item and had enjoyed a teenaged love. In her letter May sounds troubled and frightened. Sharon, against John's wishes, decides to take a leave of absence from her desk job and visit May -- who is elderly and alone.

When Sharon arrives at Dead Dolly Creek she instantly re-embraces the place and her memories. Later she recalls not all memories were good; there were odd incidents and near accidents then. Dead Dolly Creek is even more rundown now: Shamrock's (grocer) is closed, the elderly are dying off, only the mortician and post master and gas station owner are busy. May, formerly a pretty and fastidious older woman, is now a bit disheveled and slovenly. She's also noticeably frightened and keeps two large watchdogs. Something prowls the night, scratching at her door...trying to get in. Dora and Sarah, her old friends, have recently died; May believes they were killed. Dr. Baker tut-tuts this fancy notion; does everyone in Dead Dolly Creek think they will live forever?

Sharon keeps a watchful eye on May, steps in as caretaker. She restocks May's forlorn kitchen, dusts and straightens up. She listens sympathetically to May's night-time terrors, comforts and consoles her. Dr. Baker says it's all due to the breakdown of small blood vessels in May's brain as she's aging. But Sharon suspects something evil is afoot in Dead Dolly Creek, particularly after mysterious fires start in two of the household fireplaces and May talks about "The Devil's Daughter" being after her.

Sharon's childhood friends come around, re-welcome her to town: Hetty, Cal, Beth, Art, Avel, Ed.

And then there's golden girl Evangeline with the long black hair and mysterious golden eyes. She definitely has an aura of power about her and reads tea leaves. Evangeline is not a childhood friend. She's wealthy and beautiful, a relatively recent newcomer who "just HAD to have" the village's grand old mansion. It's been refurbished. Money is no object for Evangeline, who offers to buy property from the families of the recently deceased. A friend of hers comes around, named Tom: He's allegedly an archeologist interested in the tunnels and shafts of nearby old mines. Cal does some investigating; it turns out Tom's a banker in Denver.

Meanwhile May and Sharon both continue being stalked by a big black cat. May twice succumbs to night terrors. But what terrifies Sharon are the large cougar-like track marks on the floor.

The story unfolds at a consistently fast clip. Good descriptives. There are a couple of surprising twists and turns. Very satisfying all around.

The cast of characters as I visualized them:

Sharon Benedict: Barbara Feldon
May: Ellen Corby
Cal: As described - tall, dark, handsome.
Evangeline: Julie Newmar
Dr. Baker: David Ford
Others: As described

1 comment:

Joshua Perdue said...

I'm re-reading "The Long and Living Shadow" by Daoma Winston right now. It's my favorite gothic. I have to get more of her stuff.