Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Review - Jennifer Lee Carrell's Haunt Me Still

Haunt Me Still by Jennifer Lee Carrell
Published by: Dutton
Book Provided by Dutton
Publication Date: April 15th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
Challenge: Thriller and Suspense
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Kate Stanley has been summoned by The Lady of a remote Scottish Castle. Situated at the foot of Dunsinnan Hill of Macbeth notoriety, any theater director given half a chance to visit Dunsinnan Castle would leap at the opportunity to visit and meet it's inhabitants. Lady Nairn has become recluse in her later years and invites are rare. Once the great screen actress Janet Douglas she, like Grace Kelly, fell in love with nobility and gave up her old life for a new one. Though she never did forget her roots. Lady Nairn was famous for her portrayal of Lady Macbeth and her and her husband have spent their life collecting the rarest of the rare in Macbeth memorabilia. Recently her husband died suddenly with the final words: "Dunsinnan must go to Birnam Wood." A reversal of Shakespeare's Macbeth, making it all the more puzzling. Lady Nairn informs Kate of her plan to do a one time only production of Macbeth in Hampton Court utilizing her collection and hoping that Kate would do the honors of directing. Of course any director who knows anything about Shakespeare knows the history of Macbeth is dark and twisted with death and disaster following in it's wake. There are rumors that the scene with the witches as it now exists is not how Shakespeare wrote it. Perhaps what he wrote was not imagined at all, but a real ceremony he witnessed which lead to the curse.

Wherever the truth lies one thing is certain, once Kate accepts the job things start to go rather odd. Despite Lady Nairn's warnings Kate spends the next day up the Hill, alone. Once there Kate falls asleep and sees quite vividly Lady Nairn's granddaughter trussed up with ribbons and quite clearly dead. She also finds a very old dagger in very good condition. Rushing back to the house she stumbles upon the arriving actors, ready for rehearsals, along with her ex, Ben Pearl, who Lady Nairn hired for personal security. But stranger still, she finds Lily alive and well. Nothing is making any sense to Kate and tensions are high at the dinner party. The next morning the first death occurs, followed shortly by a second death, with the victim, Sybilla Fraser, trussed up as Kate thought she saw Lily, along with Lily's disappearance. Lady Nairn believes it to be her ex, Lucas, a cruel and manipulative director who is not above murder behind this. What follows is Kate jumping through the hurtles Lucas has set up in an effort to save Lily but find the true manuscript, the true magic that lies in Macbeth and that has cursed the play for centuries.

This book is a wonderful "what if" delving into not only the magic and mysticism, as well as the curse, that surrounds Macbeth, but all that surrounds Shakespeare as well. How else, besides magic, can you explain his rocketing to fame? From historical facts about riots in New York to more fantastical ideas surrounding John Dee and his occultism, anyone from a theater buff to a history buff should devour this book. Being at one time involved in the theatre myself, it's a compelling look into the history and development of the theatre as well as into the superstitious mentality of those artistic types who are drawn to the stage. Also the artifacts and theatrical detritus that Lady Nairn has collected over the years is fascinating in and of itself. The description of the beetle gown worn by Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth and as painted by John Singer Sargeant lead me to search out the picture to marvel at that which is true in the book.

I loved this book. It's only flaw was at times with all the running too and fro it felt a bit too "Da Vinci Code" for me. But once at the too or fro, the dialogue took it far away from any such comparison. But my favorite aspect was the relationship of Lady Nairn to Lucas. She was his muse. Their relationship has more than a hint of the Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock about it. With both actresses marrying and ending their careers and the directors never being quite the same again. Only I would liken Lucas's actions more to the sadistic qualities of the John Huston camp and his connections to Man Ray and the Black Dahlia murder, than I would to Hitchcock. But the vast influences on this book from stage and screen only lead it to be more multi layered and complex, making it a satisfying read, especially to those in the know. I would also like to thank Dutton for sending me this book, I would never have picked it up and I would have missed out on a wonderful book.


Sounds like a fun read! I love all things Shakespeare with Macbeth being my favorite. I may have to find this book for the historical content.

I really enjoyed it, and it wasn't confusing at all, even though I hadn't read the first in the series, though that is now on my tbr pile as well!

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