1026526As I mentioned in my post, “Into the Stacks!”, The Beloved Husband challenged me to pick out a book that I had never heard of before at the library rather than one by an author or in a series that I am familiar with. The end result of my browsing was that I went home with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough’s The Lady in the Loch – a historical mystery with supernatural overtones.

The main protagonist of the story is Sir Walter Scott (author of Ivanhoe). Shortly after he’s been appointed the sheriff of Edinburgh, body parts are pulled out of one of the local lochs. Scott attributes it to grave robbers until living gypsy women start disappearing from their home camp outside of town. At the insistence of Midge Margaret, one of the surviving gypsies, Scott works towards solving the disappearances, and finds himself drawn into an adventure that he never could have dreamed up, where ghosts are as dangerous as grave robbers and black magic is more than the delusion of a mad man.

Scarborough’s greatest strength is her ability to write atmosphere well – from the warmth and safety of a local pub to the chill and eeriness of a psychopath’s hidden lair. She didn’t have to use many obvious writing tricks to tug at my emotions, the backdrops on which the various scenes are set did the trick on their own. Scarborough also blends horror and humor really well. She rarely uses them together, but she alternates between the two adroitly enough to give readers an emotional rest before delving back into the creepy and insane.

I only have two complaints about this book. The first is that Scarborough writes her dialogue phonetically, and everybody has very thick Scottish accents. I was able to understand everything, but it was really distracting because it slowed down my reading and I often had to read sentences aloud to make sure I had gotten them right. The second complaint was that I figured out who the bad guys were by the third or fourth chapter, so the big reveals were really anticlimactic when they came. I like being surprised by plot twists, so it was disappointing to see them coming a mile away.

Other than those two things, this is a solid, satisfying story with strong suspense and atmosphere. There’s nothing overtly graphic or grotesque, so anyone over the age of twelve could enjoy it, though some younger readers might not grasp all the plot points.