Night of the Black Tower
Olga Sinclair | Lancer Books | 1968 | 207 Pages
Young school teacher Beth Rushbrook agrees to come live at Black Tower Farms as the new governess for the owner’s daughter. Duff MacBrae has been troubled by the erratic behavior of his daughter Effie since his wife’s mysterious falling death from the farm’s historic tower the year before. In the days leading up to Sybilla MacBrae’s death, the door to the Black Tower was covered in ritualistic signs and totems, including a misshapen wax figure and a sheep’s heart nailed to the wood.
Researching the local community as part of her tutoring duties for Effie, Beth learns of a grim history for the farm. Some hundred years prior, a young girl was branded as a witch by superstitious villagers and hung from the tower parapet. Beth finds that Duff is quick to anger at the mention of even the most casual superstitions, but admits that his wife was a firm believer in the occult.
Visiting the Black Tower to satisfy her curiosity about the hanging of the alleged witch, Beth finds a fresh set of occult items nailed to the door of the tower. She fears that the same forces that drove Mrs. MacBrae off the tower balcony are again at work, targeting a new victim at Black Tower Farms.
Night of the Black Tower plays out as a rather rote mystery, with the only slight tension coming from the questions: 1. Who will go over the tower next? and 2. Will Beth find true romance beneath Duff MacBrae’s gruff exterior? The answers to both play out rather as expected. Beth never seems to be in any imminent danger (she does have a dead kitten thrown at her), and the occult trappings never suggest a deeper conspiracy at work among the other residents of the town.
Reading through contemporary eyes, the nascent romance could easily be described as Night of the Sexual Harassment Tower, a creepy tale of an employer kissing his young charge, flirting with her at the barn dance, and gifting her inappropriate sleepwear for Christmas.