THE SHROUDED PASTThe three neighboring houses on Maine s seacoast seemed lost in the fog, cut off from the rest of the world The houses belonged to Vera Waters, her aunt and now there was a strange new family, who came shrouded in mystery as deep as the fog Who were the Harpers Just two men and a woman who, as they claimed, liked the area If so, why did their first sight of Vera shock them into near silence And why did Aunt Samantha s astrological readings, usually happy and frequently correct, warn Vera of impending danger The threat to Vera s sanity and life became brutally clear the day a private investigator arrived in town One of the Harpers, said Detective Egan, was mad, haunted by an ancient murder and driven to kill again Vera, equally compelled, found herself the unwilling bait in a trap terrifying than her worst imaginings The book opens with us meeting Vera waters, a librarian unhappily working for a domineering, fault finding female superior art a leading Boston museum Earlier, we are told, Vera was able to endure the misery of her boss when she d formed a romantic attachment with a man who worked in another branch of the museum But suddenly he was transferred to another city, to a busier job that would consume him and take him away from Vera So now Vera finds herself living alone in a small apartment on Beac The book opens with us meeting Vera waters, a librarian unhappily working for a domineering, fault finding female superior art a leading Boston museum Earlier, we are told, Vera was able to endure the misery of her boss when she d formed a romantic attachment with a man who worked in another branch of the museum But suddenly he was transferred to another city, to a busier job that would consume him and take him away from Vera So now Vera finds herself living alone in a small apartment on Beacon Hill, her parents have moved to Florida for their retirement, she dreads going to work each day and there seemed to be no prospects for a relationship in her immediate future In short, Vera Waters is ready for a change in her life Soon that opportunity presents itself, her Aunt Samantha, Vera s dad s older brother s widow , who is elderly, arthritic ridden and without children of her own, requires a companion nurse to live with her Samantha has offered the position to Vera Aunt Samantha lives in the suburbs of Portland, Maine, in an English Styled gabled house There are two other houses on her estate, a large white Colonial and a small cottage The atmosphere of the property is described, on the back jacket cover, in a way that intrigued me right away The three neighboring houses on Maine s seacoast seem lost in the fog, cut off from the rest of the world Vera accepts her aunt s offer, and after making her preparations, sets off for Portland, Maine The one aspect she s apparently not looking forward to is the weather of the region Spring comes as a drawn out, gray, miserable period in Maine It has nothing but the dried up, colorless remnants of vegetation that withstood winter s assaults The warming air comes to battle with the cold of the ocean and hidden pockets of snow in the depths of thick woods to cause and onslaught of misty days and nights For weeks at a time the bleak Maine coast is plagued by fog with sunny days in the minority But despite the prospects of gloomy spring weather, Vera is anxious to get on with this new phase of her life She makes the short drive from Boston to Portland in her tiny sedan The large coastal Maine city soon comes into view, and soon after that, the fine old English Style Tudor house on the dead end of the suburbs.Clarissa Ross does a superb job of conveying the mood of the house s interior Dreary in the afternoon The huge, shadowed living room in a house was too dark due to it s pseudo English windows which were dismally small, and there wasn t enough of them But the mansion was elegant with fine wood paneling and luxurious antique furniture which loomed richly in the gloom Conversely, the house makes a rather lovely transformation when the sun goes down It lent itself to artificial lighting The bleakness of the sparse light from the too tiny windows no longer was an annoyance after dark Ross did a wonderful job of creating the atmosphere to match the foreboding promise of sinister and macabre happenings that the reader senses are coming later in the story, and since setting is so critical to the successful telling of these Gothic mysteries, I would say that this one is worthy of praise as a first rate example of excellence in this genre Similarly, I found the descriptions of Vera s Aunt Samantha to be equally effective Vera s father s description of his sister in law She s tall and thin and no beauty But she has that stern New England type of features that have a fine quality of their own Then Vera s own account of seeing her aunt for the first time in a long time Aunt Samantha sat in a wheelchair and studied Vera with steely eyes set under heavy, grey eyebrows Arthritis had bent her back and she was so thin, she appeared emaciated Yet her hollow cheeked, leathery old face had a proud air of defiance about it Her features were aristocratic, and her manner was sharp The author regularly referred to Samantha s facial features Eaglelike eyes Hawk like face I was able to clearly visualize how observant the elderly lady was, and how offsetting was her presence I could almost feel what Vera must have been feeling when she was in the presence of her aunt Continuing with the plot of the story, Vera s aunt makes it clear that she will eventually repay her niece s loyal service as companion nurse by willing her entire estate to Vera upon Samantha s death It is with this eventuality in mind that Samantha ensures that her niece become acquainted with her lawyer and real estate manager John Murchison, described as, a handsome, brown haired young man with a bronzed, friendly face Murchison, as it turns out, was to teach Vera about the ins and outs of the estate operation, including the rental of the houses This was to be Vera s apprenticeship to becoming the head of the estate herself Very early on in the story, Vera has her first lesson in the ways of property rental It proves to be a rather unforgettable one She was to evaluate the suitability of three potential renters who showed interest in the large Colonial house Samantha gives Vera this task and adds onedetail which makes the younger woman very nervous She tells Vera that the potential renter s interest was piqued by the fact that there is a rumor that the Colonia house was haunted The prospective renters are the Harpers, James, his wife Maria and James older brother William Vera s first meeting with the three sets a spine chilling tone, as does her other mysterious experiences living on the Maine estate This story s mysterious twists and turns included References to a sociable ghost, nightmare inducing sleeping quarters, suppositions of transmigration, long ago murders, an obsessive retired P.I., a s ance turned violent and an exquisitely described trip to a basement wine cellar Clarissa Ross enters a worthy work into the canon of modern Gothic Mystery classics, one I enjoyed Pretty good read, would ve liked a littleaction but overall a positive read. Super creepy I was expecting not to get any sleep at night, but somehow I managed quite well The main character wasn t as dumb as some, but it was a close call,there were many times when I imagined a big blinking sign over her head spelling out the word IDIOT I was able to figure out the baddie not too far in, but you can never be 100% sure, so I didn t let my guard down for one moment The back of the book doesn t make much sense It says the three houses in a secluded area on Main s seacoas Super creepy I was expecting not to get any sleep at night, but somehow I managed quite well The main character wasn t as dumb as some, but it was a close call,there were many times when I imagined a big blinking sign over her head spelling out the word IDIOT I was able to figure out the baddie not too far in, but you can never be 100% sure, so I didn t let my guard down for one moment The back of the book doesn t make much sense It says the three houses in a secluded area on Main s seacoast belong to Vera and her aunt That isn t true, they only belong to the aunt, Vera is just visiting.It also says that Aunt Samantha does astrological readings, which also is wrong She contacts spirits through the Ouija board.Lastly, it claims that a detective s name is detective Egan Wrong again Inside the book his name is always Henry Eden, not Egan, and he s a retired detective.The author may as well have just named him the stocky man, because he was referred to as the stocky man just as much as he was Henry Eden