Saturday, March 23, 2019

Clarissa's Warning, by Isobel Blackthorn

Creativia, November 2018

Claire Bennett wins a lottery jackpot, and buys a decaying ruin on the island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, where she has been spending her vacations for years. It's her dream, but her Aunt Clarissa,a psychic, warns that her chart projects difficulties, loneliness and isolation, and possible dangers, if she does move to Fuerteventura. Claire is not a believer in the spirit world, and now that she is wealthy, rather than a Colchester bank teller, she's determined to live her dream. Off she goes to Fuerteventura, where she rents an apartment, hires a builder, and sets to work restoring her new home.

The former owner had intended to demolish it. The builder suggests that they use the stones to build a new, modern house. Locals believe the house, called Casa Basaro, is haunted. She meets a local photographer, Paco, who loves the building too, and tells her the story of another Englishwoman, 19th century travel writer Olivia Stone. But Paco, too, interested as he is in the project, also says it's haunted, and urges her to be careful.

The stories don't alarm her. She doesn't take her Aunt Clarissa's warning seriously. When the builder, Mario, has to hire non-local men to do the work, that's just local superstition. When small rock she took from one of the damaged walls back to her apartment moves around in her apartment, she is sure she, somehow, has an intruder.

Even though, really, that doesn't make sense.

Claire is a determinedly rational woman, dealing with a situation that isn't responding to her rational approach. Strange accidents happen at the site, and when she starts sleeping there, the doors to her finished rooms, bolted from inside, nevertheless open, and furniture gets moved around. When power is connected, she experiences moments of extreme cold, and the power going on and off. Outside, strange, floating lights follow her.

Paco and the owner of the nearby cafe, Gloria, have very different stories about the history of the house.

And while Claire stays there, long-buried memories of seeing her mother die in a bus crash, when Claire was just seven, come back to her.

It's an intriguing and emotional story, and drew me in after some initial resistance. Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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