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The Haunting of Alan Mais

Novel by Peter Saxon (Scotland) 1969.

The Guardians are brought to Beacon Old Farm in deepest Norfolk, to rid the owner, rich playboy Langford Layton, of the spirit that is plaguing him. Father Dyball and Steven Kane are joined there by Anne Ashby, against the wishes of the group's enigmatic leader, Gideon Cross, and her behaviour becomes most uncharacteristic. From a respectful woman with complete control over her actions, she becomes a sadistic, taunting wanton, and a dangerous focus of the same curse afflicting Layton's house.

Although some later books were excellent, this one, following Wilfred McNeilly's other Guardians novel, the poor Dark Ways to Death, doesn't help to justify the existence of a whole series of novels about the Guardians. Even shorter than its predecessors and failing to match their pace, fluidity or style, it is, nonetheless, a fairly enjoyable book with no particularly great flaws. McNeilly has a wonderful turn of phrase, and there are parts here, as in all his books, that truly are a joy to read; but, as usual, they are not sustained. Like Dark Ways to Death, it's not a good representative of the qualities found in some of the other books in the Guardians series, but it's at least worth a cursory glance.


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