Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review: At the Sign of the Jack O'Lantern by Myrtle Reed


For newlyweds Harlan and Dorothy Carr, inheriting a grand country home from a distant relative seems like a dream come true—a chance for respite from the hustle and bustle of New York City, for Harlan to pen his first novel in peaceful quiet, and for Dorothy to try her hand at farming. But Uncle Ebeneezer’s house is nothing like they imagined, and quickly turns out to be more than they bargained for!

For one thing, Dorothy swears the eyes of Uncle Ebeneezer’s portrait are watching her—in fact, she can’t help but feel that Uncle has never really left the house at all. For another, a beautiful woman who seems to have stepped right out of the pages of Harlan’s novel appears at their doorstep, and immediately causes tension between the newlyweds. And a stream of eccentric visitors claiming to be Uncle Ebeneezer’s other relations begin arriving, driving Dorothy and Harlan to distraction by day, and secretly searching for the treasure they’re sure Uncle Ebeneezer left behind by night. Add to that a superstitious housekeeper, a cat who may or may not have come back from the dead, and a devious plan for revenge served from beyond the grave, and you’ve got the ingredients for a hilariously haunting good time! 

Legacy Romance | October 2012 (re-issue)

My Review

4 Stars

Originally published in 1902, Myrtle Reed's At the Sign of the Jack O'Lantern is a delightful novel about a young, newly married couple and their adventures in their new home. 

Upon the death of his Uncle Ebeneezer, a man he has never met, Harlan Carr becomes the new owner of Ebeneezer's stately home in the country.  Eager to get away from New York City, Harlan and his new wife Dorothy immediately set out for the property, where Harlan, a writer, plans to compose his first novel.  As they settle into their new home, Dorothy begins to think there is more to the house, and deceased Uncle Ebeneezer, than meets the eye.  Dorothy's feelings are further compounded by the arrival of Ebeneezer's distant relatives, who have used his home as a summer gathering place for years and don't view Ebeneezer's death and the subsequent change in ownership as a reason to stop visiting.  As a result, Harlan and Dorothy find themselves host to variety of guests, putting a strain on their marriage and jeopardizing the completion of Harlan's novel.  Can their marriage, as well as Harlan's writing career, survive? 

At the Sign of the Jack O'Lantern is full of quirky characters, some loveable, some despicable.   Harlan and Dorothy Carr are well-drawn and sympathetic, and it is easy to comprehend their mounting frustration as their new home is invaded by a steady stream of uninvited guests.  The interaction of Harlan and Dorothy with their guests, as well as the guests' interaction with each other, is often times comic.   Further hilarity ensues when each guest searches, under the cover of darkness, for the riches they just know Ebeneezer left behind for them.  Even in death, however, it seems it is Uncle Ebeneezer who will have the last laugh. 

As evident by the novel's title, At the Sign of the Jack O'Lantern makes for a perfect autumn read.  Nevertheless, given its comic nature and fabulous cast of characters it is a book that can be enjoyed at any time of the year.

Note: This novel comes from my own personal collection.