Whisper of Darkness
Margaret Lynn | Paperback Library | 1966 | 187 pages
“I see signs that our Landon’s patience is wearing very thin. Personally, if I were in his shoes I should have taken retaliatory steps before this. A dozen of the best delivered with a stern hand on your bottom is the best disciplinary corrective I can think of, my girl, and I have strong suspicions that our Landon’s mind is working on the same lines.”
Bending to the demands of her cantankerous old grandfather—a dying patriarch making a final effort to secure his considerable estate and legacy—young naïf Judith Craig accepts an arranged marriage with her cousin Landon. Although the old man dies soon after the hastily performed nuptials, final stipulations in his will prevent Judith from gaining the freedom she desires. Judith and her new husband are required to remain living together as man and wife in the Craigmore estate for a period of ten years, or forfeit all their inheritance.
Complicating the arrangement is the arrival of Judith’s other cousin, Jeff, the object of a burning childhood crush since their brief summer meeting years ago. Previously, Jeff declined the same offer put to Landon, but ultimately ended up receiving a third of the estate anyway. Further, if Judith and Landon fail to meet their terms of the will, the entire bulk of their inheritance will instead be awarded to Jeff.
Desperate to leave Craigmore but unable to see a way out of her situation, Judith is nonetheless surprised when a series of malicious attacks begin against Landon. Suspicion naturally falls on her, reinforcing her general perception as little more than a petulant child. She gradually discovers that others may be motivated to break her marriage and gain a portion of the estate, including her grandfather’s illegitimate daughter, her former beau, and members of the neglected household staff.
Even given her status as a sheltered child under the iron grasp of her domineering grandfather, Judith suffers from such a crippling passivity that fully sympathizing with her proves difficult. Stammering and continually breaking into bouts of crying, she allows herself to be dominated not only by her new husband, but by her doctor, her lawyer, and her servants. Agonizingly slow in piecing together the true source of the malignancy at Craigmore, sheer impatience with Judith’s latent role as a sniffling and stuttering heroine makes rebuking the prescription of a dozen stern slaps to the bottom a hard proposition.