REVIEW: Begars Abbey

It’s January, the nights are long and cold and the days are grey. What better time of year to curl up with a gothic-style ghost story?

Begars Abbey is by VL Valentine and was published by Viper in 2022.

It is set in 1953/4. Our protagonist Sam Cooper is down and out in Brooklyn and her mother has just died. She does not know who her father is. She finds a stack of hidden letters in which she learns she has a grandmother she has never known in a country pile in Yorkshire so she contacts the lawyers who sent the mysterious letters and sets off to find her roots in England.

Begars Abbey turns out to be a remote, crumbling old house, built on the site of a former convent and inhabited by a minimal staff and Sam’s crippled and non-vocal elderly grandmother.

Sam is determined to discover why her mother Vera left the family home and never mentioned it or her relatives to her. There are secrets locked in the house and the family and Sam wants to know what they are.

Now I have to say I almost gave up with this. I wasn’t wholly convinced by the character of Sam and I got absolutely no sense of place (Yorkshire) or time (the 1950s).

What saved it for me was the storyline. I also wanted to know why Vera had left the house, travelled to New York and preferred to live in poverty when she came from a wealthy English family.

And as the story went on I was enjoying the ghostly bits and had fun trying to guess who was a living being and who was not.

Begars Abbey has a ruined church, secret doors that lead to mysterious tunnels, ancient books with more modern tales to tell, deaths, near deaths and dark, stormy nights.

The plot romps along at a great pace and the family’s dark secret, which all comes together at the end, is one that’s worth waiting for.

I was slightly disappointed not to get the full story of Sam’s parentage and I absolutely hated the last three paragraphs. You’re going to have to read it yourself to find out what they were and whether you liked them. I’m guessing many people will have thought them brilliant. Sadly not me.

But I like a gothic ghost story and this was just that.

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