Despite its title, this novel is more historical mystery than haunting ghost story. I was hoping for an eerie haunted house full of ghostly secrets; what I got was an intriguing mystery centered around the Tarleton Theatre, an old music hall in London that has been closed up and off-limits since 1914. Asked to provide a survey of the old theatre, Robert Fallon discovers a bricked-up sealed vault beneath the stage; fellow researcher, Hilary Bryant, who is very interested in Tarleton's past, unearths stories of the Tarleton ghost and of Toby Chance, a legendary performer and songwriter at the Tarleton who vanished without a trace also in 1914.
Hilary said, "You know, Robert, anyone listening to some of the things we've said tonight might almost believe we really do think the Tarleton's haunted. I don't mean just enjoying the atmosphere and the echoes--I mean really haunted."
"I do think it's haunted," said Robert. "So do you. All old buildings are haunted, to some extent anyway. I don't know what we encountered tonight, but whatever it was, I don't think that what's sealed beneath that stage is a ghost."There are multiple story lines in this novel: Toby's and his mother's, both performers at the Tarleton back in the day, Robert's and Hilary's own modern-day encounters, along with some long-buried secrets, unexpected political intrigue, murder and revenge, and, of course, the mystery surrounding the Tarleton ghost. I got caught up in each part of this mystery, eager to see how they all came together in the final chapters. There was only one story line, Shona's, that seemed completely superfluous and unnecessary. Luckily, Rayne is such a talented writer I never felt my interest or attention wane. So even though this wasn't the ghost story I was hoping for, I ended up really enjoying this well-written and intriguing mystery. (It also counts as another TBR book checked off my list for Lark's Backlist Reader Challenge.)
One of Rayne's more ghostly mysteries: