|Now I want a raspberry coat with a purple flower at my throat.|
The Gabriel Hounds is, in my opinion, one of Mary Stewart's creepiest novels. It's not like her magic-ey books, that are slightly reminiscent of her Merlin writing, full of spells and mild magic and other worldly experiences. It's also not that wild-chase thriller theme that runs through so many of Stewart's books.
The Gabriel Hounds is the story of Christy Mansel, a young aristocrat who is traveling abroad in the Middle East. While there, she runs into her handsome, impetuous, equally wealthy cousin who is also traveling. They agree to go look up their eccentric Great-Aunt Harriet living in a palace called the Dar Ibrahim, a women well-known in Lebanon (or The Lebanon, as Mary Stewart archaicly calls it). But they find that there are strange things afoot at the Dar Ibrahim, where sinister Arab servants (*cringe*...I know...) and a mysterious doctor minister to the demanding old lady. Christy and her cousin (who is also the love-interest...surprise!) find that as difficult as it is to get into the old castle, it may be even more difficult to get out.
Throughout this book run sinister threads of drug overuse (particularly hashish) and cultural problems with the Middle East. The natives in the book are treated with an extremely racist suspicion that feels kind of weird to read. However, Mary Stewart's writing surpasses some of the awkward racist descriptions.
This was not my favorite Mary Stewart (Nine Coaches Waiting will always hold that special position in my heart), but it was definitely good. The story was well crafted and I sat at the edge of my seat in the car, the seatbelt digging into my neck, skipping bathroom stops so I could find out what happened. There was even one panicked moment where I realized I couldn't find my book and that it was stuck in the back of the trunk. But I finally retrieved it and kept reading. This was a great book! If you are fond of Mary Stewart, this is a must-read.