Whispers in the Sand

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9780006512073: Whispers in the Sand

The gripping new suspense story by the bestselling author of LADY OF HAY and ON THE EDGE OF DARKNESS, is set in richly mysterious Egypt, where past and present elide.

Recently divorced, Anna Coburn decides to cheer herself up by retracing a journey her great grandmother made in the nineteenth century: a Nile cruise from Luxor to the Valley of the Kings.

Anna carries with her on the voyage two mementoes of her great-grandmother Louisa: an ancient Egyptian scent bottle, and the diary of that original Nile cruise, which has lain unread for a hundred years. As she follows in Louisa’s footsteps, Anna discovers in the diary the chilling secret of the scent bottle and is pursued by the same terrifying spectres as her great grandmother.

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Review:

Over the years, Barbara Erskine has been able to build up a considerable following for her densely plotted, imaginative novels of romantic suspense. Her particular speciality is the vigorously created world she imagines for her characters. In Whispers in the Sand, her heroine Anna Fox undertakes a Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan, following the progress of a journey her great grandmother, Louisa, made in the 19th century. The details of the recently divorced Anna's odyssey are handled with dazzling authority, and even if the multiple love story at the centre of the narrative was not so adroitly handled, we would still be beguiled by the panoply of a powerfully drawn Egyptian journey.

Erskine never loses sight of the fact that the reader must be thoroughly engaged by the problems she sets for her characters. Anna takes on her trip two of Louisa's possessions (the latter was a famous artist): an Egyptian scent bottle from the distant past and a beautifully illustrated diary of the original cruise that no one has read for over a century. We are allowed to be caught up in a fascinating love story from the Victorian era as Anna reads the diary, and more sinister relics of the past (such as the glass bottle) give an edge to the romantic intrigue. As Anna's journey progresses, other members of the party seem to be interested in the mementoes, and there is a rivalry between two men for her attention.

However, the most compelling strand to Erskine's tale is the sinister haunting that Anna finds herself the victim of, as a mysterious presence begins to exert a grip over her. Readers nowadays are used to narratives that take place simultaneously in both the past and the present (such as AS Byatt's Possession, for instance), but the device is handled with particular skill here. In fact, those who have enjoyed such Barbara Erskine books as On the Edge of Darkness will probably be surprised at the sophisticated enjoyment on offer here: this is her most ambitious book yet, and her sensuous scene-setting is first-rate:

Louisa set down her pen and stared out of the window at the dark river outside. She had pulled over the lavish shutters to allow the smell of it, the warmth of the night air, the occasional breath of chill wind from the desert to enter her cabin. It all captivated her. She listened carefully. Above, the stars were violent sparks against the blue-black sky. There was a slight movement behind her, and she turned...
-- Barry Forshaw

Review:

Recently divorced Anna Coburn cheers herself up by retracing a journey her great-mother Louise made in the nineteenth century, a Nile cruise from Luxor to the Valley of the Kings. She takes with her two mementoes of Louise, an ancient Egyptian scent bottle and her diary which has lain unread for 100 years in which she discovers a wonderful Victorian love story - and a chilling, more distant secret of the scent bottle as she finds herself pursued by the same terrifying spectres as her great grandmother.An eerie tale of romantic suspense by the author of the blockbusters Lady of Hay, Encounters, Distant Voices, On the Edge of Darkness et al.

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