Come to Castlemoor
Beatrice Parker | Dell Books | 1970 | 205 pages
A dubious historical assertion on the purpose of neolithic stone circles underpins this gothic tale of a city girl stumbling towards uncovering a deadly secret in a small English village.
After the accidental death of her brother, Kathy Hunt packs up her belongings and moves from London to the evocatively named village of Darkmead to continue his research on the Stonehenge-like circle of standing stones dominating the moors outside of town. Accompanied by her maid Stella, a sassy girl with a seemingly singular fixation on strapping young farm lads, Kathy occupies her brother’s former house, a small cottage not far from the stone circles and under the malevolent watch of the village’s medieval castle.
Although Kathy considers herself a forward-thinking young woman, the character of Darkmead’s stone circle initially tests her Victorian-era sensibilities. The standing stones she encounters at Darkmead, unlike the purely architectural post-and-lintel forms at Stonehenge, overtly resemble phalluses. While searching for her brother’s missing manuscript, Kathy also discovers a similarly-shaped small stone necklace in his study.
Against the background mystery of her brother’s death, a familiar romantic melodrama unfolds, with Kathy at one corner of a potential love triangle. Cousins and Castlemoor residents Burton Rodd and Edward Clark both jockey for Kathy’s attention in their own fashion. The brooding Burton masks his attraction with a seemingly antagonistic attitude toward Kathy, whom he insists leave Darkmead at once. The ingratiating Edward charms on the surface, but perhaps hides a less sincere motivation. Meanwhile, Bella’s beribboned and corseted seduction of a hunky farm hand plays almost as a bickering comic relief.
Glimpses of figures in white drifting across the moors, possible sightings of lost loves in the gloom of the castle dungeons, and hints of a secret network at work in Darkmead all permeate the romantic shenanigans with some atmosphere of mystery and foreboding—although one character’s attempt at a secret handshake with Kathy comes off as unintentionally humorous.
The lessons learned: small towns harbor dark secrets, and misplaced trust ultimately leads to an unholy ritual on a sacrificial altar.