Night of the Moonrose
Miriam Lynch | Paperback Library | 1966 | 158 pages
“On the night of the moonrose, Beth Sherwood was to be married—and murdered.”
Although the back cover blurb gives everything away, Night of the Moonrose delivers enough expected genre thrills to justify following its heroine through to her appointed sacrificial vows. She arrives in a threatening new house [check], and is greeted with hostility from a host of suspicious relatives [check]. An early attempt is made on her life [check]. She discovers her remarkable resemblance to a woman who died two hundred years previously [check], and stumbles upon a library full of books on witchcraft and the occult [check]. A love interest is introduced who may or may not be trustworthy [check], as a countdown winds towards the anniversary of a dark historical event filled with ominous portent [check].
After her mother remarries, Beth Sherwood takes a position as live-in caretaker to Honora Buxton, a distant relative on her late father’s side of the family. However, she finds the reception at Devil’s Walk as suffocating as the overpowering aroma of the wildly abundant moonroses growing all over the grounds the estate. Carl and Ruth, the deaf-mute servants, are simply distant, but the cook Jesse exhibits overt hostility. Honora’s sister Lily is a doll-like beauty, but displays unusual ferocity towards Beth, particularly in the presence of her beau, Will Mansfield. Nathan Buxton, the master of the estate, exudes a powerful magnetism, but also seems to possess a dark side— melodramatically reflected in the swirling, malevolent music he produces late each night on the house’s grand old organ.
Beth is further unsettled when she discovers her uncanny resemblance to a family portrait of Elizabeth Buxton, Nathan’s ancestor who was hanged for being a witch in 1692. Stumbling upon what she concludes to be a secret ceremony in the cellar beneath the kitchen, she begins to understand the cause of the oppressive atmosphere at Devil’s Walk. As the anniversary of Elizabeth’s execution draws near, Beth fears that her own fate is inexorably linked to that of the accused witch, and that she also is destined to die on the night the moonroses bloom.
While certainly failing to add anything new to the Gothic suspense canon, Night of the Moonrose nonetheless revels in the familiar pleasures of a plucky young heroine poaching the fiancé of a rival while trapped in a house of ritualistic cultists.