While this book is considered part of the Claire Moffat trilogy that begins with Dark Satanic, Claire plays a supporting role here, and the main character is psychologist named Leslie Barnes. Leslie and her younger sister, a talented pianist, move into a house in San Francisco that they both love, but soon it becomes clear that there are unusual, perhaps dark forces, at work in the house. There are apparently innocuous incidents, such as windows that won't stay closed, and a ghostly cat that comes and goes in the garden. And there are more unnerving experiences, such as the bloody visions that afflict Leslie in certain locations of the house, accompanied by a noxious stench that leaves her reeling.
Leslie has an ability to sense certain things psychically, and she was in some of the tabloids about her help in finding missing people. She wants to keep a low profile and focus on her career, but between calls for help from parents of missing children, poltergeist phenomena manifesting around one of her young clients, and the disturbing events that are escalating in her house, Leslie feels overwhelmed. Then she meets Simon, her sister's piano teacher, a brilliant musician who can no longer play the piano because of an accident. She is drawn to him, but there is something strange and unsettling about him, too.
This is a creepy ghost story that I read when it was first published, over twenty years ago. It's funny how distance and time (or age and experience? I feel old!) can change your reaction to the same book. I remember finding it creepy back then as well, but what I don't remember is wanting to reach into the book and shake some sense into Leslie. She was infuriating! And her relationship with Simon was profoundly disturbing to me this time around. Yikes. It was a more unsettling read for me this time because of the issues surrounding the romantic relationship, as well as the way Leslie interacted with the other characters. Don't get me wrong - it is a gripping story, and I enjoyed the sense of foreboding that escalates through the course of the novel, along with the atmospheric setting and the sense of mystery. I just found myself liking almost every character better than the main character this time around. I have the other two books in this series on my bookshelf downstairs, and I'm planning on reading them again, too, at some point - along with Bradley's Darkover novels, which I absolutely adored when I was younger.
Books in the Claire Moffat trilogy:
1. Dark Satanic
2. The Inheritor
3. Witch Hill
The Inheritor (#2 in the Claire Moffat trilogy) by Marion Zimmer Bradley (Tor, 1984)