You couldn’t go up to the door, ring the bell and ask, “Did you put poison in Mr. Tolliver’s coffee? And did you, by any chance, bash him over the head?”
When Ann Bartley left her hometown in Alabama five years ago, she swore she’d never return. How could she, after her fiance jilted her to elope with one of her in-laws? She’d see Hugh and his new wife at every family event. Even after the doctor orders her south to recover from pneumonia, she resists.
Then she receives a panicked letter from her sister Jean: “I need you, I need you desperately now. I’m so afraid…” Is Jean losing her mind, or is her husband’s family trying to drive her crazy? Ann would do anything to defend her sister—even after Jean’s enemies start turning up dead.
“I am sure that if spirits walk, it is in places that they have loved. That is why it seems foolish to be afraid of them […] Why should anyone be afraid of a happy ghost?”
Roderick and Pamela Fitzgerald have finally found the perfect house in the Devonshire countryside. Cliff End even comes complete with its very own ghost, the tragic Mary Meredith, who met a mysterious death there fifteen years earlier. It makes a picturesque story, but rumors of ghosts are surely exaggerated.
The brother and sister soon find that living in a haunted house isn’t as jolly as they imagined. They are kept awake by moans in the night, strange white mists, chills that seem to pass right through them. Even worse, some unseen force seems to zero in on their deepest insecurities, driving them to despair.
The only one who’s not afraid of Cliff End is Stella Meredith, Mary’s daughter. She’s convinced the spirit of her mother would never hurt her. But nothing in this house is as it seems, and there may be room for one more ghost at Cliff End.
From these ashes would spring the phoenix, not of love, but of murder; of hatred, vengeance and the lust to kill! What had he not loosed upon the world!
One afternoon in downtown New York, Norman Storm sees a beautiful woman emerging from an office building, a chance encounter that will change his life. For the woman is his wife, Leila. Thirty-six hours later, he will beat her to death.
Ashes to Ashes is an inverted mystery, following the thoughts of Norman Storm as he suspects his beloved wife of infidelity, impulsively kills her, then conceives an elaborate plan to cover up the murder. In the swirl of events that follow, Storm finds that his greatest danger comes, not from the police, but from his well-meaning friends.
“He’s the devil. How can we fight the devil? That tongue of his, the power of it! He molds the thoughts in people’s heads with his tongue, Jane. Their brains melt. He makes them think what he wants them to think. They’re all his puppets. And he’s the great director. Look at him now. He’s killed twice, committed two murders, and everybody is down there weeping for him.”
They say money can’t buy happiness, and Mathilda Frazier is the living proof. First her fiancé Oliver jilts her days before the wedding, to marry her poor but beautiful cousin, Althea. She goes on a cruise to try and forget, only to be reported dead after a shipwreck. When she finally returns home months later, a handsome stranger is waiting on the dock. He says he’s her husband. Mathilda is sure she’s never seen him before.
At least she has Grandy. Her guardian Luther Grandison loves her even if she is, as he keeps reminding her, an ugly duckling. Mathilda has never really thought about whose money is paying for Grandy’s luxurious lifestyle. It’s never occurred to her that he might have been happier with her dead.
“This is April, not Halloween. Women on broomsticks are a little out of my line. If you tell me that a woman put a spell on Mr. Miles Despard, and rubbed herself with ointment, and got into a dress several hundred odd years old, and consequently walked through that wall—well, all I’ve got to say is, I want a case that’ll at least get past the grand jury.”
Ted Stevens is a happy man. He loves his job as a book editor, his weekend home in a quaint Pennsylvania village, and, most of all, he loves his wife Marie. The only small shadow on his contentment is the recent death of his neighbor, Miles Despard—a bit untimely, but surely natural.
Then one day he opens a book and his life changes forever. Ted begins reading a manuscript about historical crime and sees the photograph of a woman executed for murder seventy years earlier. The woman in the photograph is his wife.
“It isn’t as easy as that to have murders forgotten.”
He was deliberately patronizing. “It is obvious that you are lacking in experience, dear Griselda.”
Griselda Satterlee is no stranger to drama. Once a movie star, Griselda abandoned Hollywood three years ago to forge a new career in New York. It’s a peaceful life. At least, until she meets the twins.
On her way home one evening, Griselda is snatched by a pair of sinister men who force their way into her apartment. The kidnappers are handsome identical twins, one dark and one fair, impeccable in white tie and tails. They don’t want to hurt her (they claim) but are willing to do anything to secure “the very blue marble.” Anything.
Griselda would be happy to hand over the marble, if she only knew where it was. Her quest for the little blue trinket soon turns into a living nightmare that threatens everyone she holds dear.
“Some murderers, particularly the distinguished ones who were going to make great names for themselves, usually started in childhood; they showed their genius early, just as outstanding poets, mathematicians, and musicians did.”
Little Rhoda Penmark isn’t like other children. Unfailingly polite and diligent, the “old-fashioned” young girl is doted on by adults. She doesn’t get along with children her own age, however, especially classmate Claude Daigle, who wins a prize Rhoda had her heart set on.
When Claude drowns during a school picnic, Rhoda takes her first experience of death a little too calmly. Christine Penmark starts to wonder whether her little girl is quite as innocent as she looks…