Monday, July 1, 2024

Dark Shadows #02 - Victoria Winters

I’ve been making my way through the literary work of William Ross, evident with seven of the author’s novels reviewed right here on the blog. Ross used a myriad of pseudonyms throughout his career to become the most popular and prolific scribe of gothic paperbacks through the 1960s and 1970s. His body of work also contains 33 paperbacks that serve as television tie-ins to the supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows. I read and reviewed the first installment, Dark Shadows, and wanted to revisit the series in hopes of a better experience. I plunged into the foggy seaside village of Collinsport for the series second installment, Victoria Winters (1967).

As I mentioned in my Dark Shadows review, these stories have their own continuity and feature ideas and characters that don’t appear in the television show. For example, Collins House features Roger Collins, a middle-aged man who doesn’t appear in the television show. In the first novel, young Victoria Winters takes a job at Collins House as a governess to Elizabeth’s nephew David. In Victoria Winters, Victoria has a few weeks off from work due to David and his cousin being away from Collins House on holiday. This sets up the book’s premise for Victoria to be tormented again by ghosts and human foes.

Elizabeth agrees to allow a businessman named Henry and his two daughters a temporary residence at Collins House. Henry’s daughter Dorothy is recuperating from a brain surgery and will need her older sister Rachel and the quiet salty air of Maine’s coast to rehabilitate.

Victoria soon begins seeing a mysterious woman in Collins House that resembles a dead woman named Stella Hastings. How can she be alive after plunging from a cliff to her death? To complicate things more, Vicki sees a figure lurking around Roger Collins’ boat. There’s also a mysterious man named Paul Caine who professes to be an artist, yet knows nothing about art. Like most of Ross’s novels, and the novel before this one, Victoria is attacked numerous times and the list of suspects ranges from the groundskeeper to Henry himself. When attacks aren’t happening, the author sprinkles in Victoria’s nightmares to pad out the pages (a common trait with Ross).

Victoria Winters is actually a pretty good crime-fiction mystery. If you take away the fact that this is a Dark Shadows novel, and strictly read it as a stand-alone mystery, then I think you’ll be more appreciative of the slow formula. There is a great deal of dialogue, like Dark Shadows, but the development is quick, and the overall mystery is compelling. The suspect list is a diverse one and I must admit that the abandoned wing of Collins House is creepy even without vampires and werewolves stalking the corridors. If you enjoy Ross’s gothics, or just like a confined mystery, then Victoria Winters is a fine choice. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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