Darker Still begins when Natalie Stewart is released from the Connecticut Asylum, a school for deaf and mute children. She returns to her father’s townhouse on the East Side of New York City. Because she is mute, she and her father worry about her future. One day she overhears a conversation. Her father says, “I don’t have the foggiest idea what to do with her. I’ve no idea what would be best…” And Edgar, a man she cares about, replies, “Why don’t you just send her off to a convent where you wouldn’t have to worry about her, Gareth? She could become a nun…A vow of silence certainly wouldn’t be difficult.”
Hurt by their comments, Natalie suggests that she work on acquisitions for the Metropolitan Museum of Art where her father is employed. Her first suggestion is that the museum acquire, or at least exhibit, a life-sized painting of Lord Jonathon Denbury, a wealthy young man who died of an apparent suicide. The portrait was discovered shortly after his death, and was said to “appear nearly alive with the soul of its subject.”
When Natalie sees the painting for the first time, she is strangely drawn to its handsome subject. “Everything about the painting drew me in. Perhaps it was haunted after all—the life in those eyes…the slight chill that I couldn’t quite shake. The flare of his nostrils was that of an animal smelling blood.” From that moment, Natalie is caught up in an adventure that includes black magic, unspeakable horror and even murder! “Oh, Natalie, this is magic most foul. I daresay even Shakespeare’s witches couldn’t have dreamed this up.”
Darker Still is a historical novel set in the 1880’s. Because Natalie is writing in her journal, the reader is told of events after they have occurred. I found this a bit disconcerting, but the story was compelling enough to hold my interest despite it. This book deals with spiritualism, magic and murder. It is a dark, gothic tale best read by readers over the age of twelve.
—Jane Bedell, author
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