SPIDER LIGHT - Sarah Rayne

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Antonia Weston, former psychiatrist has to try to rebuild her life, shattered by murder and obsession. When she is released from prison after serving her own sentence for manslaughter, her former boss finds her a small cottage to rent in the quiet village of Amberwood.

The cottage is in the grounds of Quire House, now open to the public, in the past the family home of Thomasina Forrester. Over a century ago, Thomasina was a woman of money and influence, overseeing a trust that provided support for Latchkill Asylum. Latchkill is a malevolent place which has a profound affect on the local area and the people who live nearby. Maud is one of those people, her father runs the local mill Twygrist, and Maud, young, innocent and motherless is pulled into Thomasina's influence.

Antonia, in an effort to put aside the past events in her own life, forms a tentative friendship with one of the curators at Quire and finds herself increasingly drawn to finding out more about Quire House, Thomasina Forrester and Twygrist Mill. Although Latchkill has long been pulled down, Twygrist Mill still stands, derelict and menacing in the village and it still has a profound affect on people, not the least Antonia herself.

SPIDER LIGHT moves backwards and forwards between the past and the present, revealing more of Antonia's own experience and the story of Thomasina and Maud. Both threads have a central core of personal and sexual obsession which increasingly becomes more twisted and dangerous. Both stories have consequences that rapidly escalate and the results for Thomasina, Maud and Antonia are dire. All the way along, Twygrist Mill remains a focal point for so much anguish.

SPIDER LIGHT is Sarah Rayne's 4th book, a psychological thriller with a clever intertwining of the past and the present. SPIDER LIGHT is a reference to the half-light that comes at certain times of the day, the time when spider's sneak around, the light soft and eerie. It's an image that is used throughout the book to impart the sinister look and feel of Latchkill Asylum. It's also used to describe that half-world between madness and sanity, and it works. It imparts a creepy, half-light, enclosed, fuzzy world where nothing is clearly defined and nothing is quite right with that world.

SPIDER LIGHT is a great book, but don't make the mistake I did, reading it in the middle of a heavy, dull, spidery light, smoke-filled atmosphere from local bushfires. Try it in the bright sunlight, but definitely try it.

Year of Publication

"The dangerous thing about spider light is that it hides things - things you never knew existed. But once you have seen those things, you can never afterwards forget them..."

Antonia Weston has come to the sleepy market town of Amberwood in search of peace and anonymity after a shattering and all-too-public tragedy in her life. But shortly after her arrival, a series of disturbing incidents occur -- incidents that eerily echo a past she is trying to forget. 

As Antonia struggles to re-build her life, she becomes increasingly fascinated by the macabre history surrounding her: the disused watermill, Twygrist, with its brooding darkness, and the now-vanished Latchkill Asylum. 

Memories of Latchkill still linger: memories of how, when the autumn dusk -- the 'spider-light' -- fell, no one would dare walk past its gates. Because a hundred years ago, people lost their identities inside Latchkill's walls. People such as the innocent Maud Lincoln, jolted out of that innocence by a brutal plot.

But Antonia's fascination with the linked histories of Latchkill and Twygrist has alerted someone from her own past. Someone who knows all about Twygrist's darkness. Someone prepared to use that knowledge in the most horrific way... 

Review SPIDER LIGHT - Sarah Rayne
Karen Chisholm
Thursday, October 4, 2007

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