The Gabriel Hounds


Mary Stewart was one of my mother's favorite authors. I had nver read much of anything other than the Merline/Arthur books, but I had glanced through some of the books and formed a favorable impression of the prose in general.

Because I had spent some time with the Misses Archer and Sloper, I thought I had earned a little vacation from slow-going but enriching literature and spent it with three books--Agatha Christie's Appointment with Death, John Dickson Carr's The Man Who Could Not Shudder and Mary Stewart's The Gabriel Hounds. Perhaps more about these former two later. But for now--The Gabriel Hounds.

Mary Stewart, like Georgette Heyer, is one of those people capable of writing a "romance" which is engaging to whomever wishes to read it. The modern day "romance" elements of this book are slender indeed, confined to a couple of moments largely in the last twenty pages of the book. While I've seen her typified as a modern day "gothic" writer, nothing could be further from the truth--at least as far as this book gives evidence. She is a writer of suspense novels/mysteries set in exotic locations which she renders with an incredibly deft touch.

It is difficult to imagine a write more able to create atmosphere and setting with a lighter hand than can Mary Stewart. The Gabriel Hounds is set in Lebanon and Syria of the mid 1960s. Apparently, at that time, Lebanon was still a fairly pleasant place to visit. And the story takes place in the Dar Ibrahim, a palace located between the sources of two rivers--one of them being the river at which Adonis was killed by a wild boar.

The story centers around a visit made by a dutiful great neice to the eccentric aunt who inhabits this rambling wreck of a palace and all of the mayhem and havoc that ensues.

Given that this is my first encounter after the Merlin novels (about which I have mixed feelings), I have no doubt that I will be visiting Ms. Stewart more frequently in the future. This book provided an enjoyable respite and a few quiet moments with a very capable writer.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on June 23, 2008 7:51 AM.

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