Friday, August 22, 2014

Forgotten Book: Fear Stalks the Village by Ethel Lina White

It was sometime in 2010 that I discovered Ethel Lina White. One day bored and restless, I browsed Manybooks and found her book Some Must Watch available for free download. The mystery was so gripping that I read it through the night and then was afraid to switch-off the light. Subsequently, I read a couple of other books by her: She Faded into Air, and The Wheel Spins. Both were good but not as masterly as Some Must Watch. Recently, I read another one of hers: Fear Stalks the Village.



Joan Brooks has settled lately in a picture-perfect village as the secretary of Lady D'Arcy. The village is beautiful: It was enfolded in a hollow of the Downs, and wrapped up snugly—first, in a floral shawl of gardens, and then, in a great green shawl of fields. Lilies and lavender grew in abundance. Bees clustered over sweet-scented herbs with the hum of a myriad spinning-wheels.

The villagers live in great harmony, throwing garden parties and generally being merry under the benevolent eye of Miss Decima Asprey, the queen of the village. The Rector of the village who had come to it a few years earlier thinks that the village reflects all that is good and right in the world.

When the novel opens, Joan is being visited by a friend, a novelist, from London. Both find each other changed but are determined to enjoy their time together. While returning the novelist jests that this pristine village is actually sinister: a very much in love respectable couple are actually not married, the doctor who is fond of his wife is actually poisoning her, the Rector throws wild parties, and that saint like Miss Asprey is actually a sadist who tortures her helps. Joan laughs it off though she feels offended at her paradise being mocked so.

However, soon Miss Asprey receives an anonymous letter accusing her of of what the novelist had hinted. And this is just the beginning. Soon anonymous, poisonous letters are circulating in the village accusing the denizens of what the novelist had hinted. The bonhomie disappears as each person becomes suspicious of his neighbour and when a murder occurs, the threat cannot be denied any longer. The Rector calls his friend Ignatius Brown to solve the mystery. Brown soon finds out that all the villagers have something to hide, including Joan with whom the Rector is in love...



While good in parts, this novel was overall a drag. Too many descriptive passage took away the tautness needed in a mystery novel. And the village began to irritate me with its very complacency. Nevertheless, White remains a favourite and I am keen to read more of her works.

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First Line: The village was beautiful.

Title: Fear Stalks the Village
Author: Ethel Lina White
First Published: 1932
Pages: n.pag.
Source: Downloaded free from Project Gutenberg Australia

Other books read of the same author: Some Must Watch, She Faded into Air, The Wheel Spins

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Entry for Friday's Forgotten Books, today @ In Reference to Murder

16 comments:

  1. This author is new to me, Neer - thanks for posting your review! I've added it to today's FFB links.

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    1. Welcome to the blog and thanks for linking it up. White is one of my favourite mystery writers and I can't recommend her Some Must Watch enough.

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  2. If you liked SOME MUST WATCH then you ought to find THE THIRD EYE. Talk about creepy and freaky! I think WAX is a good one too. It's her early books that are better than her later ones. I couldn't finish HER HEART IN HER THROAT. The narrator was a superior ninny! When Rex Stout tried o read ...THROAT he said he surrendered on page 59.

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    1. And which page did you surrender, John? :)

      I have THE THIRD EYE on my wishlist since I saw the review @ The Passing Tramp. Unfortunately, it is not available still. WAX is though and I hope to read it soon.

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  3. Neeru - I'm sorry to hear that this one dragged a bit for you. The mystery itself sounds really interesting! Thanks for your candor and for a well-written review.

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    1. Margot, for a long time I wrote positively about books that had actually bored me. But then one day, I realised that i was neither being honest to myself nor to those who visited this blog. From that time onwards I decided to be more candid.

      A little bit of editing would have made it taut.

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  4. I'm with Margot, it does sound interesting. Poison pen letter always bring out the worst in villagers. :) I'm going to look for any free downloads before I begin buying vintage copies. I want to read THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE for sure.

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    1. Yvette, quite a few of White's books (including SOME MUST WATCH/ THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE) are available for free download @ Project Gutenberg, Australia. The book can also be downloaded from Manybooks. Hope you get a chance to read it soon.

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    2. I did finally get a chance to read FEAR STALKS THE VILLAGE, Neer. I share your opinion that it's a bit of a drag in parts. Kind of a strange way to tell this sort of tale, but then I read THE WHEEL SPINS (on which THE LADY VANISHES movie is based, I think) and realized that I wasn't crazy about this author. While I loved the movie I disliked the book intensely.

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    3. Yvette, The Wheel Spins is an okay kind of book but you must read Some Must Watch. That is the book that made me pick up her other books. Very Suspenseful.

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  5. I haven't read anything by this author yet, but I plan to read THE WHEEL SPINS and THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE and read the movie adaptations. And then maybe try some others.

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    1. Tracy, though she is known more for THE WHEEL SPINS (thanks to the film by Hitchcock) I personally found SOME MUST WATCH to be more interesting.

      Hope you get a chance to read them soon.

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  6. I have always wanted to read some of her books as I have seen several movies based on them (including the great THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE from SOME MUST WATCH) - doesn't sound like this is the place to start though! Thanks Neeru.

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    1. Sergio, do read SOME MUST WATCH. According to me it is in the Top 10 mysteries of all time. :)

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  7. A Step In The Dark was very suspenseful and involving. Also free from PGAustralia.

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    1. Welcome to the blog Christina and thanks for the recommendation. I'll definitely be reading A STEP IN THE DARK sometime soon.

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