The Blurb (from Goodreads):
It’s all a grand adventure when English Christy Mansel unexpectedly runs into her cousin Charles in Damascus. And being young, rich, impetuous, and used to doing whatever they please, they decide to barge in uninvited on their eccentric Great-Aunt Harriet—despite a long-standing family rule strictly forbidding unannounced visits. Because when the Gabriel hounds run howling over the crumbling palace of Der Ibrahim in the Lebanon, someone will shortly die.
A strange new world awaits Charles and Christy beyond the gates of Dar Ibrahim—”Lady Harriet’s” ancient, crumbling palace in High Lebanon—where a physician is always in residence and a handful of Arab servants attends to the odd old woman’s every need. But there is a very good—very sinister—reason why guests are not welcome at Dar Ibrahim. And the young cousins are about to discover that, as difficult as it is to break into the dark, imposing edifice, it may prove even harder still to escape.
Mary Stewart is one of my all-time favourite writers and I am just sorry she wrote so few books as I have loved them all. She’s one of my go-to writers when I am tired, or rundown, or unwell. I love her deft mix of romance and suspense, her exotic settings, and the ‘To Catch A Thief’ atmosphere of 1950s glamour and style. I simply cannot understand why all her books have not been made into movies.
The Gabriel Hounds (first published in 1967) begins when Englishwoman Christy Mansel unexpectedly runs into her cousin Charles in Damascus. Their fathers are twins, and very rich, and Christy and Charles are used to having their own way. Christy is about to head on to Lebanon, and Charles asks her if she plans to visit their Great-Aunt Harriet who lives there in an ancient walled palace, dressing like a man in a robe and turban and doing as she pleases (à la Lady Hester Stanhope). Christy is intrigued at the idea and so steals a march on Charles by dropping in uninvited. Her suspicions are aroused by the squalor of the half-ruined palace and the strange behaviour of her great-aunt. A storm maroons her there, but she manages to speak with Charles across the gushing torrent of water. She shares her concerns, and her cousin scales the walls of the seraglio to be with her. (I kid you not. Sigh).
And so begins a swift-paced tale of greed, treachery and murder that sees strong-willed, outspoken Christy tested to her limits. The setting is incredibly atmospheric, the romance sweet but fiery, and the denouement never fails to bring a little sting of happy tears to my eyes.
An oldie but a very good goodie.