The House of Memory

Written by Carolyn Haines
Review by Val Adolph

Raissa James can see the dead, and she has capitalized on this by opening a private investigation agency specializing in the occult. “Pluto’s Snitch” she calls it, and she was successful in solving her first case. In this new book, she and her partner Reginald Proctor have set out to solve a troubling case of Camilla, a normally kind young woman who has suddenly begun violently attacking the man she is to marry. She is now locked away in a grim asylum, where a terrible fate awaits her.

Camilla’s good friend Zelda Fitzgerald has hired Raissa to help Camilla. Zelda is the new wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald and close friend of movie star Tallulah Bankhead. These two Southern belles appear throughout the book as the part-regal, part-impish young women they were in the days of the flappers and the early movies. Together with these characters, we have the strong evocation of a hot summer in Alabama to enrich the sensory environment.

Characters in this story range from the down-to-earth Raissa and her cardsharp partner, Reginald, to the patient fiancé David, the vengeful spirit of Nina Campbell, and the evil doctors at the Bryce Hospital asylum, who are practicing an early and unsuccessful form of lobotomy surgery. Raissa’s task is not only to try to save Camilla from the surgery but also to save her from the malevolent spirit of Nina.

The writer presents an evocative treat for the reader—a strong impression of the heat of the Southern summer and of the dramatic showdown with the malevolent spirit one stormy midnight in a southern mansion. This book is a tour de force from an accomplished writer who has a gift for delivering vivid sensory impressions to deepen the impact of her story. This is a powerful book you will not soon forget.