From the turn of the first page, HAUNT ME STILL promises an irresistible combination for mystery fans: an ancient curse, a spooky castle and bloody murder. Written on the rim of a mirror believed to hold dark powers are these words: Nothing is but what is not. From there on, they foreshadow twists and turns at each catch of a breath. Truly, little in this book is what it seems.
When Shakespeare wrote his shortest tragedy, Macbeth, it is said that he called forth demons that have besieged the play ever since it was first staged. Now comes this tale of magic and murder that revolves around the bard’s Scottish play --- and the superstitions that surround it. Even today, it is easy to find players who will talk of horrible accidents and catastrophic mishaps that have taken place while rehearsing or staging Macbeth. Nonetheless, Lady Nairn, a beautiful retired actress, and current resident of Macbeth’s castle, wants to do one last production of Macbeth as a kind of homage to her dead husband. And she wants Kate Stanley to see that it gets done.
Readers of INTERRED WITH THEIR BONES will recall that we first met Kate Stanley as she endeavored to unravel the mystery of a long-lost manuscript. As a Shakespearean scholar, anything she gets involved with that even hints at the possibility of an undiscovered folio makes the stakes soar. Here, the search is on for a deleted scene describing a rite of black magic. And to help her, Ben Pearl, the man who aided Kate in her quest to find that manuscript, is back. Only this time, he’s with another woman.
What set this whole adventure in motion was a phone call that Kate awakened to one morning, asking her to hop a train to Edinburgh for a meeting. At the end of the day, she finds herself a guest of Lady Nairn at Dunsinnan Hill and admits that she is intrigued by her hostess’s request to stage the play, using her personal collection of Macbeth memorabilia. For Kate, it holds an overwhelming appeal, and of course, she agrees. But once again, the specter of the play’s curse rises, and things start to go awry almost immediately. And, unfortunately, she ignores Lady Nairn’s explicit warning not to go up the hill alone. Dunsinnan Hill. Macbeth’s hill.
After witnessing some pagan ceremony during the night, Kate regains consciousness covered in what looks like blood. When a body turns up nearby, even she doubts her innocence, for she can remember nothing of several previous hours. Now she must stay away from the police, since she cannot deny her own involvement. She doesn’t know what she did in those lost hours and, therefore, fears the truth. Then, a young woman close to Kate is kidnapped, and that changes everything. The play is no longer her focus, but meeting the kidnappers’ demands is. What is it they want? Shakespeare’s missing scene. And Kate has 48 hours to deliver it or the young woman will die.
Set against the backdrop of the Scottish Highlands, the magnificent castle at Edinburgh, and the enchanted land of Macbeth, HAUNT ME STILL presents a fantastic thrill ride. Sorting out who’s who and whodunit is about as much fun as you can have with a book of magic and murder.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on April 26, 2011