A Heroine’s Life…or a dog’s? Joan Aiken goes Gothic…

Has Joan Aiken’s heroine met her match…? Read on to discover!

Joan Aiken’s first thriller published a couple of years after her children’s classic, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase has an equally irrepressible heroine, only this time she has more than wolves to handle:

Herondale pages

 “Blow it all,” thought Deborah… “he’ll just have to kill me if he’s going to.”

   In fact at this point it’s a slavering guard dog, not the villain of the piece that she’s worried about – there are still a choice of three or four contenders for top villain, so in any case it’s probably a good idea to make friends with the dog…  Trapped in an isolated farmhouse on the Yorkshire moors, our heroine Deborah, a young lady of no uncommon resources, and certainly not faint hearted, is grappling with a diesel engine to get the power and lights on in an isolated farmhouse, and has also been left in charge of assorted geese and chickens and a runaway infant prodigy who may be lost on the snowy moors, but chiefly on her mind is an escaped prisoner possibly lurking nearby, cheerfully referred to on local news broadcasts as The Slipper Killer.

These are only a selection of the many ingredients generously stirred together in Joan Aiken’s suspense thriller, originally published fifty years ago in Gollancz’s famous yellow jacket series, and with all their usual panache, covered in rave reviews like this one:

Silence review

Having had considerable success with her ‘Gothic’ children’s novel, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase Joan Aiken decided to turn her talents to writing for adults – previously she had only published adult short stories for weekly or monthly magazines – and turned to the Romantic Gothic model popular in the 50’s & 60’s with alacrity. This gave the opportunity for pre-feminist heroines to demonstrate the resourcefulness and intelligence of the unshrinking violet – the girl who could look after herself, and usually the hero as well, sinceJoan Aiken’s own life had equipped her with plenty of practical experience of this kind as well as her writing skills.  Widowed with two small children and left homeless and in debt after her husband’s early death, she needed a whole range of practical and literary skills to keep the family afloat. By 1964, when this novel, The Silence of Herondale was published she was only just beginning to make a living from her writing, so no wonder she put absolutely everything into it.

Out of print for too long, this wonderfully entertaining and hair raising read is coming back in December courtesy of Orion’s  The Murder Room  EBook Library as part of a series of Joan Aiken adult titles.  Look out for them all – and give yourself some cheerful winter thrills!

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Read more about Joan Aiken’s adult novels on her website

Reissued in paperback by Orion Murder Room


Or visit the Hachette Orion SFGateway site for more

Click on book above to read this excerpt!

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