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Ghost Song, by Sarah Rayne

November 3, 2013

Felony of the Week: Ghost Song

Sarah Rayne – a very nice woman who doesn’t wear goth make-up or keep pet spiders or show any inclination to bite people till they bleed – has more than once been called England’s “Dark Lady of crime fiction.” And there’s no question that her books tilt toward the disturbing end of the spectrum. Ghosts walk (or lurch, or scratch tauntingly at the window), hoarse cries for vengeance echo down the generations, madness festers, unspeakable things are done and spoken about. Want proof that she can trail a single icy finger down your back in one short sentence? Check out A Dark Dividing, our most recent Felony of the Week.

And yet there is always the exception that proves the rule. Ghost Song – 25% off, this week only! – is not exactly steeped in sunshine and puppydogs. It is set, after all, in a haunted London theater, where horrible things have happened. Nevertheless, there is something oddly gentle about the story and its charming protagonist, Toby Chance, a song-and-dance man par excellence, and star of the music hall (essentially the British equivalent of vaudeville).

In our interview with Sarah Rayne, we asked how she came to write Ghost Song, and she told us that her father had in fact been on the music-hall stage. He wouldn’t have been a contemporary of Toby’s – Toby was strutting his stuff round about the 1910s, in the period running up to World War I – but music hall was a creature of tradition; we’re betting that Mr. Chance and Mr. Rayne sang some of the very same songs.

We’d also bet that it’s her father’s influence that prompted Ms. Rayne to cast a nearly sunny light on Ghost Song, softening the shadows that characterize her work, and suffusing the book with a warmth that one doesn’t expect from an author known as the “Dark Lady.”

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