Book review: W J Burley — House of Care

Burley is best known for his Wycliffe series, but this book is a standalone psychological mystery, one of his few non-series books. Sixteen years ago Sir Henry Care’s first wife died in a fall from the folly tower on the family estate. In the meantime the estate, and the family, have slowly decayed. Sir Henry’s daughter by his first wife is convinced that she and her twin brother are resented and unwanted by the rest of the family, and resents them in turn. She’s manipulative and delights in stirring up trouble within the family, but she has also long taken an interest in the occult. She uses meditation techniques to recall memories of the day her mother died, leading to an accusation of murder against her stepmother. When she seeks to raise a demon to answer her questions about that day, she too falls from the tower. The drugs she used as part of the ritual cause hallucinations. Is it accident, suicide… or murder?

The characters and their relationships are well drawn and intriguing, but I found that the end of the book fell flat. The solution to the puzzle is offered, but there isn’t enough in the book to support it as the right and natural solution. It feels more as if having set up a number of candidates, the author picked one at random. The book’s worth reading, but I think not really worth paying more than reading copy price for unless you’re a completist.

It’s currently out of print other than in the UK Large Print edition and possibly the audio book, but as Orion are busy working their way through a re-release of the Wycliffe series, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was re-released in paperback in the next couple of years. In the meantime, here are the Amazon links for second-hand copies:

Amazon UK:
The House of Care Walker and Co hardcover (US edition?)
The House of Care paperback (US edition, I think)
House of Care Gollancz hardcover (UK edition)
The House of Care: Unabridged Magna Large Print Books edition, 2001, in print but special order
The House of Care: Unabridged audiobook, which appears to be still in print as a special order

Amazon USA:
The House of Care paperback
The House of Care hardcover

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