It’s all a grand adventure when Christy Mansel unexpectedly runs into her cousin Charles in Damascus. And being young, rich, impetuous, and used to doing whatever they please, they decide to barge in uninvited on their eccentric Great-Aunt Harriet—despite a long-standing family rule strictly forbidding unannounced visits. A strange new world awaits Charles and Christy beyond the gates of Dar Ibrahim—”Lady Harriet’s” ancient, crumbling palace in High Lebanon—where a physician is always in residence and a handful of Arab servants attends to the odd old woman’s every need.
But there is a very good—very sinister—reason why guests are not welcome at Dar Ibrahim. And the young cousins are about to discover that, as difficult as it is to break into the dark, imposing edifice, it may prove even harder still to escape… (Summary from Amazon.com.)
I always enjoy Mary Stewart’s novels of romantic suspense, and The Gabriel Hounds is no exception. I liked Christy’s lively and slightly self-absorbed nature; she seemed real and relatable, if not always admirable. But the Amazon summary makes her sound a lot more irritating and privileged than she is! And the novel is great at creating a subtly sinister atmosphere once Christy enters Dar Ibrahim. The place seems to be nothing more than an old, run-down estate, and its inhabitants all treat Christy kindly, at least at first. Yet the book manages to convey an escalating sense of menace until Christy, with Charles’ help, must flee for her life. The novel’s central mystery, which involves drug trafficking, is both amusingly dated and surprisingly relevant today. I enjoyed the romance and the exotic setting as well, both hallmarks of Mary Stewart’s writing style. This book doesn’t rank among my favorites by Stewart, but it’s still a very solid read if you like the author or old-fashioned novels of romantic suspense.