“Inside Stone Manor” by Lori Krause starts off slow, and a little repetitive, and then it takes off like a runaway train which I could not put down and I read it in one sitting. Sarah and her seven year old daughter, Clara, live in a ten bedroom, nine thousand square foot manor on a hundred and thirty-one acres of property. They grow their own food in a little garden that Sarah keeps. The manor has been in the family for generations, and somehow Sarah is able to keep it up as she waits patiently for her husband, James, to return who left in search of work 3 years ago. He left through the front gate and each day she hopes he will walk back through the gate and into their lives. For fear the she might lose her daughter, she forbids her daughter to ever walk through the front gate.

Her only visitor, outside of the bank manager who is ready to foreclose on the manor, is her childhood friend, Evelyn, who comes over each morning at nine o’clock to have tea. The conversation usually centers around the subject that Sarah should move from the manor and give up on the idea that James is ever coming back. After all, not only has he not returned, but she has not heard from him in those three years. But, she believes so much in their love for each other and her love for the manor that she can’t accept the idea that her husband would leave her and their daughter and never come back. He promised he would come back with money to help pay off the bank and keep the manor in the family.

Evelyn never stays for very long and she is the only one that leaves through the front gate. Her daughter plays on a swing all day that her father built for her, and she has made friends with a make believe boy named Johnny. Each night they go through the same ritual: Clara takes a bath, puts on a nightgown, gets into bed and her mother reads a story to her but before Sarah ever finishes the story her daughter falls asleep. Sarah then sits before a mirror and combs her long hair and hopes that her husband will come up behind her and touch her like he used to do.

It is not long before Sarah starts hearing noises in the manor, and seeing shadows of a woman in a ball of bright light and a man in dark, deep shadows, walking down the hallway passed the bedrooms and into her husband’s Study. At first, she thinks she is dreaming, but then they become way too real. It is at this point that the reader asks, “Why doesn’t she pick up a phone and call the police, or turn on a light, or get into a car with her daughter and drive away?” And it is also at this point that the reader realizes that there is never a “date or a year” mentioned and that there is no electricity or modern day appliances and never no meat served for dinner, lunch, or breakfast.

“Inside Stone Manor,” is an engrossing psychological profile, a mystery and suspense story that is literally at times quite chilling. Secrets are revealed that are only too real, depths of loneliness and regret are explored that are frightening. The author, Ms. Krause, has stripped bare the surroundings and left us looking into a mirror and not seeing what is there, keeping the front gate closed for fear of what we might encounter on the other side. Highly recommend.


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