Author: Barbara Michaels (Barbara Mertz, Elizabeth Peters)
It begins as a lark -- a harmless diversion initiated by Washington, D.C., hostess Ruth Bennett as a means of entertaining her visiting niece, Sara. But the seance conducted in Ruth's elegant Georgetown home calls something back; something unwelcome ... and palpably evil. Suddenly Sara is speaking in a voice not her own, transformed into a miserable, whimpering creature so unlike her normal, sensible self. No tricks or talismans will dispel the malevolence that now plagues the inhabitants of this haunted place -- until a dark history of treachery, lust, and violence is exposed. But the cost might well be the sanity and the lives of the living.
Barbara Michaels' books are a guilty pleasure of mine. I love to read them when it is October, or raining in fall and spring. There is just something cozy about them that you can read under a blanket with a cup of tea. I own most of her books written as Michaels, and all are well worn and well-loved paperbacks.
I did not have Ammie Come Home, so I borrowed it from the library. The copy I received was a dull gray, library bound without a cover picture. It was so old looking and the pages so soft. I think these tactile qualities helped transport me back to the time when this book was first published, in 1968.
You could really tell that this book was written and published in the 60s. There were references to hippies, protests, stereotypical gender roles, miniskirts, and smoking. I think it was all the casual smoking that really struck me; Ruth is portrayed as a distinguished, demure woman in her 50s or so, and she was always lighting up. A cigarette here, a cigarette before bed, I am not sure why this seemed so odd to me but it did. I don’t think I have really read anything lately where the main character smokes. It just was out of character to me; I feel now smoking is used as a device to show a character is flawed, rebellious, or quirky, and Ruth was none of those things. Despite all this, I thought the fact that the book was from the perspective of a slightly older woman, and had an element of romance for her too, was pretty forward thinking.
Like all good ghost stories, this one starts with a séance. I have an irrational fear of séances and Ouija boards, thanks to the Exorcist. Ammie Come Home was no different in that regard – a séance served as a doorway for the supernatural. And this story was pretty “spooktacular”. There were a few parts where I got the creepy crawlies from reading it even. There were all sorts of ghostly activity – apparitions, possession (which the book called shadowing), a creepy bodiless voice, and things falling over. Selling the house was out of the question. So what to do? Solve the mystery of course! I love books that are collegiate, with lots of references to classes, people studying classic subjects minutely and specifically, and the characters in this book were college professors and students, and when presented with a mystery, started researching heavily in libraries and books.
This book is the first in the Georgetown Series – I have actually read the second and third and really liked them. It was nice to see the origins of Pat and Ruth, who make appearances in the other books. I find these books perfect for the blustery weather of fall, when I can get cuddly on the couch and be really lazy. And you will have to read to find out about Ammie.