An overbearing old house with a haunting overshadowing past that looms over its inhabitants. Dorothy Eden uses this trait of gothic romance in a consummate setting for Death is a Red Rose. The book is whimsical and a breezy read even though the atmosphere inside the house is ominous and heavy with secrets and lies.
The surest way to intrigue a suspense novel reader is to introduce the suspects. So, here goes –
Arabia Bolton is a drama loving, senile, lonely old woman. She has a longing for desserts, camels, sheikhs and a dead daughter. Arabia likes stirring up trouble. She thrives on drama and loves her jewels. She owns the house where each corner and certainly every closet holds a different kind of mystery. Is she the grieving mother who not long ago was the belle of the ball, or an unhinged woman grudging the beautiful young and living?
Miss Glory is a tenant in Arabia’s house. She cooks and cleans and in return gets to stay without paying rent. Gloria is a colourless woman who longs to believe a man would wish to seduce her and actually mean it. Sweet and welcoming, but is it all an act? How could one not resent being the poison taster for a fussy landlady?
Mrs. Stanhope and Dawson form an odd pair. She is an impoverished mother and he is her doting teenage son. They cling to each other for comfort and share a macabre eagerness towards violence and death. Are all their warnings a genuine gesture of help or do they want Arabia’s fortune for themselves? But how? He is a wimpy kid and Arabia loves beautiful things. Could that lead to murder?
Vincent Moretti is a nightclub musician who plays melancholy elegies during the day and has an undying appetite for female attention. His words are layered with sinister meaning and connections to the dead daughter of Arabia. Is the suave man merely an act, or is there a disregard to heartbreak hidden in all the lavish praise?
Jeremy Winter is the artist with a muse, a sense of humour and a cat. He pops up in surprising places. Sometimes awfully sincere and at other times dripping with cocky presumptions. Is it love or murder on his mind? And why does his cat end up as the victim more than once? Is he a red herring?
Finally, the victim herself. Cressida Lucy is the girl who has the right name. She is the new tenant in Arabia’s assorted household. She got the place because her name matches Arabia’s dead daughter Lucy. Lucy is gone more than 20 years, but Cressida can’t stop thinking about the girl who liked dancing and red roses.
Cressida has a naive heart that takes to romanticising and flights of fantasy. She has run away from her fiance and has landed inside a mystery. With a threat to her life and danger at every staircase, what keeps her at Arabia Bolton’s place?
A must read for gothic romance lovers.