A macabre liturgy. A mysterious carving. An intriguing 200-year-old mystery for music researcher Phineas Fox to solve.  Th...

Review || Song of the Damned by Sarah Rayne

A macabre liturgy. A mysterious carving. An intriguing 200-year-old mystery for music researcher Phineas Fox to solve. 

The headmistress of Cresacre Abbey School has asked Phineas Fox to establish whether an opera, to be performed as part of the school's bicentenary celebrations, plagiarises an earlier work. During the course of his investigations, Phin discovers that curious legends about the school's past still linger, including the fate of a group of nuns who disappeared without trace more than 200 years before. What exactly happened to them? And who is the mysterious Ginevra, the shadowy figure whose true identity has never been known ...?

As he delves further, Phin begins to unravel a series of interlocking secrets, each one more puzzling - and sinister - than the last.

Song of the Damned is the third in the Phineas Fox series. Fox was introduced in Death Note, the first book in the series, which was then followed by Chord of Evil.

This is my first foray in the Phineas Fox series. I have, however, read a few of Sarah Rayne's Haunted House books. The books I have read I thoroughly enjoyed. She does a sensational job of melding the mysteries of the past and present day without completely confounding the reader. 
Typically, the secrets are reviled along with some great supernatural heebie jeebies. Both series follow the jumping timeline to solve whatever mystery is placed in front of the reader. Little bits and pieces are carefully doled out in such a way that the reader feels they are solving the mystery alongside the MC. Song of the Damned is no exception.

Centered around a possibly plagiarized opera called "The Martyrs", Song of the Damned delves into the riddle of a missing 1970's Cresacre Abby School girl and the unexplained vanishing nuns from the convent that stood on those same grounds in 1794. There are also rumors of a 12th century secret ritual called the Lemurrer, being performed on those same grounds, in which a person would be walled up alive.

The story bounces back and forth between Phineas and Arabella, who attended the Cresacre Abby School back when the missing girl first disappeared; Olivia Tulliver, whose uncle wrote "The Martyrs"; and the nuns of Cresacre Convent. Slowly, we start to unravel the answers to the questions placed before us and all the timelines start to intertwine. Where did the missing girl disappear? How did an entire convent of nuns simply vanish? Where did they go? Who performed the Lemurrer and where?

I wasn't overly shocked by the reveal, but I wouldn't call it predictable either. Personally, it wasn't quite spooky enough to fulfill my love of all things that go bump in the night.  For haunts and chills, I'll stick to her Haunted House series. (Property of a Lady definitely got under my skin.) Be that as it may, for those of you who love mysteries and thrillers, Song of the Damned will tick those boxes for you. 

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About the Author

Sarah Rayne

After a convent education, which included writing plays for the Lower Third to perform, Sarah Rayne embarked on a variety of jobs, but - probably inevitably - returned again and again to writing. Her first novel appeared in 1982, and since then her books have also been published in America, Holland and Germany.

The daughter of an Irish comedy actor, she was for many years active in amateur theatre, and lists among her hobbies, theatre, history, music, and old houses - much of her inspiration comes from old buildings and their histories and atmospheres. To these interests, she adds ghosts and ghost stories, and - having grown up in the Sixties - good conversation around a well-stocked dinner table.