No Questions Asked

Monday morning. Heavy heaving sigh. Another week, a lot to do, and probably not nearly enough time in which to try to do it all. I am going to do my level best <b>not</b> to allow this to create a sense of helplessness/impossibility which will lead me to distraction and not even trying, which only makes things worse.

Yes, I’ve been here before, if you couldn’t tell.

I must not panic I must not panic I must not panic I must not panic.

And I won’t. I just have to buckle down and get it done and I know I can.


Over the weekend, after finishing Triad, I reread another favorite Barbara Michaels novel, Witch, which I had not read in a long time. (I am now reading Gore Vidal’s Thieves Fall Out, originally published under a pseudonym and now reprinted under his actual name by Hard Case Crime.)


According to the directions Ellen had received from the real estate agent, the house was in a clearing in the woods. Gently perspiring in the the hot office, Ellen had thought wistfully of cool forest glades. April in Virginia is unpredictable; this particular day might have been borrowed from July, and the small-town office was not air-conditioned.

An hour later, after bumping down rutted lanes so narrow that tree branches pushed in through the car windows, Ellen was inclined to consider “clearing” a wild exaggeration. She started perspiring again as soon as she turned off the highway. No breeze could penetrate the tangled growth of these untamed forests; moisture weighted the air.

At any rate, this must be the house, though it more resembled a pile of worn logs overgrown by honeysuckle and other vines.

Barbara Michaels, as I have said any number of times, is one of my favorite writers of all time. Witch is one of her better books, definitely in my top tiers of her novels under that name. It tells the tale of Ellen March, divorced, who has been living with her brother-in-law helping him raise his three sons (her dead sister’s) and her own daughter, but now all are leaving for college or private schools, the brother-in-law’s job with the state department is taking him overseas, and all of a sudden, she is at loose ends. As the house in one of the suburbs of DC is to be sold, Ellen decides to buy a nice place out in the country. And she finds one, spends the next few months getting it fixed up, and moves in.

But all is not what it seems in the country.

First off, Ellen has a very bizarre reaction to the house when she first sets foot in it–an exultation, kind of ecstatic joy. And then there are the stories about the house–it was originally built in the seventeenth century, and it was the home of a woman many of the local considered to be a witch–who tended the wild animals in the woods and then “committed suicide.”

And then weird things start happening–she starts seeing a white cat in the woods (the witch had a white cat); sometimes she sees shadows out of the corner of her eye in her bedroom that vanish when she looks; she occasionally hears laughter inside the house; and then she tells, as a joke, fortunes for some teenagers who hang out in the general store in the nearby village of Chew’s Corners…and the fortunes start coming true.

The town, which is dominated by a horrific fundamentalist church called the Earthly Atonement of the Wrath of God, which is even worse than it sounds. So, of course, the “good” people of Chew’s Corners think she is either a witch herself, or being possessed by the ghost of the witch.

It’s a good story–although I would disagree with the cover’s depiction of it as “a story of quiet horror”–it’s still, more than anything else, a suspense novel with some paranormal elements thrown into it for good measure. It’s a great read, and the big reveal is just as shocking on a reread as it was on the original read.

And now, back to the spice mines. This stuff ain’t going to get done on its own.

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