Thursday, January 12, 2017

"The Abandoned Heart"

Laura Benedict is the author of six novels of dark suspense, including the Bliss House gothic trilogy: The Abandoned Heart, Charlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review), and Bliss House. Her work has also appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, PANK, on NPR, and in anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads and St. Louis Noir.

Benedict applied the Page 69 Test to The Abandoned Heart and reported the following:
Lucy Searle, a vulnerable twenty-year-old, visits Bliss House against her parents' wishes under the guise of hearing a renowned female preacher. Lucy's deadly infatuation with the house and its owner, Randolph Bliss, began a month earlier, when she attended a scandalous Walpurgisnacht party there.
The brilliance of the day, and the lively air of the small groups of men and women ascending the stairs were a contrast to the Walpurgisnacht ball. Bliss House sat calm and stately in the sunshine, and row after row of luscious white roses bloomed in the garden, soaking the air in perfect fragrance. She and Carrie were climbing up, up toward the clear blue sky as if they were on a staircase to heaven. The joy she felt swept away any disturbing memories she had of her adventures with Josiah in the nursery. Her nerves had been in such a high state, that she supposed that she might even have imagined the animals and dolls flying about the room. Perhaps they had simply fallen from the very old shelves. Randolph had told her that though he knew it might seem odd, he wished to keep the nursery as a sort of memorial to his daughter, Tamora. It seemed right to her, given that she had seen mother and daughter standing right outside its door. Bliss House did not like change. Is that why the ghosts had noticed her? They knew something that she did not. Or at least wasn't ready to fully admit to herself: that she would do just about anything to be with Randolph in Bliss House.

"Carrie, you'll sit somewhere else, please."

"Are you sure?" Carrie gave her a questioning look, her green eyes wide. She was a pretty woman, with her red hair, and neat, if ample figure. Though she was a decent enough housemaid, Lucy imagined that she would make an excellent nanny.

Now why does that come to mind?

Lucy had told Carrie about coming to Bliss House with Faye, but when Carrie asked her about ghosts, she had lied, and said that the house was impressive, but decidedly unhaunted.

"Yes, if you would. I'm sure you'll find someone you know. Half the town is here."
This selection is a perfect example of how Bliss House affects its--for want of a better word--victims, driving some to obsession, delusion, or complete madness. Here we see Lucy wading deep into her delusion, ready to lie to her friends and family in order to be a part of Bliss House. Her eventual life within its walls will become a nightmare from which she can never fully wake.
Visit Laura Benedict's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bliss House.

--Marshal Zeringue