Calista by Laura Rahme

            French detective Maurice Leroux is invited to look into four deaths that occurred in the space of a year at Alexandra Hall, a mansion owned by Aaron Nightingale and his Greek wife, Calista – two of the victims. The other two are Vera, Aaron’s sister, and a maid. Foul play is suspected. M. Leroux finds the atmosphere at the hall both sinister and mysterious. The housekeeper, a frightening individual, locks him in his bedroom at night ‘for his own protection’, but a locked door doesn’t allay his creeping suspicion that someone, somehow, has entered. The four maids and gardener, all owning various degrees of strangeness, act as if they have something to hide.

            In such a book we might expect to read about spectral figures and things that go bump in the night. Here everyday objects take on a sinister aspect: spoons, a fountain that must never be turned off. M. Leroux’s own demons are resurrected – and none could be worse than a vicious mother – as he delves deeper into the mystery, comes to understand the relationships between the four victims and uncovers a terrible secret in the cellar of the house.

            The author builds the drama very effectively to a satisfactory conclusion that will surprise. I am new to this genre, but I enjoyed it and it didn’t keep me awake at night.


Laura Rahme is a French-Australian writer based in Brittany, France. She holds university degrees in the fields of Aerospace Avionics and in Psychology. While living in Australia, she worked twenty years in information technology, and penned three historical novels. The Ming Storytellers (2012) was well received by the Historical Novel Society and is an epic tale featuring real-life admiral, Zheng He, and set in Beijing during the Ming Dynasty. Laura wrote the occult mystery, The Mascherari: A Novel of Venice (2014) after a short stay in Venice. Her third novel, Julien’s Terror (2017), a blend of gothic mystery and psychothriller, is set during and in the aftermath of the French revolution. Calista is her fourth novel. Laura is married to award-winning screenwriter, Shane Krause.

The Lines Between Us by Rebecca d’ Harlingue

This is a dual timeline family saga 17th and 20th centuries in Spain, Mexico and the U.S.A.

Anna is a childless widow. After her husband’s death, she reads his journal and learns things that both comfort and distress her. Although theirs was a marriage of mutual respect and affection, he confided things in his journal which he never confided to her. This is an ongoing theme. In this story, journals provide the bond between generations. They tell the stories of Spain when the Inquisition is still active, colonial Mexico, and three women forced by their times into lives they never would have chosen.

Anna’s brother is a self-absorbed widower who has removed all reminders of his wife from the house and will not allow her name to be spoken, although he puts it about that she died in childbirth. His daughter Juliana is a serious sixteen-year-old. One day, Sebastian, Juliana and Juliana’s duenna disappear. Anna is distraught and although she has seldom travelled, she goes to Sevilla to search for them. At her brother’s house, she found Juliana’s journal and reads it while in Sevilla. When she discovers the horrifying reason for her beloved niece’s disappearance, she abandons the search.

At this point, the narrative fast-forwards to St. Louis in 1992 and Rachel who is at the bedside of her mother, Helen. I have read just a few dual timeline books, but this was a sudden and acute dislocation. I was invested in the Spanish characters and wasn’t ready to leave Sevilla with Juliana’s fate yet unknown.

However… In the moments before her death, Helen mentions Anna and Juliana, people who Rachel has never heard of. Going through her mother’s things later, Rachel finds papers and a journal that have been left specifically to her own daughter. She cannot resist reading and thus establishes a connection to people long dead and has a better understanding of her own mother.

The author has clearly immersed herself in 17th century culture. The voices of the characters are authentic and the prose is one of the best features of the book. Example: ‘I know that our suffering is slight relative to what others have to endure, but weighing sorrow does not lessen pain.’ I found these words particularly moving.

All in all, an excellent book emphasising our connection to the past and with surprises along the way and a shocking ending.

(An odd thing happened shortly after the narrative turned to the modern era. The font became italicised and remained that way until the end. I’m sure this was accidental as I could see no reason for it.)


Rebecca D’Harlingue has studied Spanish literature, worked as a hospital administrator, and taught English as a Second Language to adults form all over the world. The discovery of family papers prompted her to explore the repercussions of family secrets, and of the ways we attempt to reveal ourselves.

She shares her love of story both with preschoolers at a Head Start program, and with the members of the book club she has belonged to for decades. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband, Arthur, where they are fortunate to frequently spend time with their children and grandchildren.

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