The Curse of Malenfer Manor – Iain McChesney (review)

I got this book for free through the LibraryThing Member Giveaways in exchange for a review.

The Curse of Malenfer Manor is set in France during (in flash-backs) and just after the First World War. During the war an Irishman, Dermot Ward, and a French nobleman, Arthur Malenfer, get stuck together in a tunnel which has partially collapsed after being bombed. Dermot is rescued in time but Arthur isn’t as lucky and dies soon after Dermot has pulled him out of the tunnel. Flash forward several years and Arthur’s ghost finds Dermot in Paris trying to escape the guilt he’s feeling with alcohol. Arthur tells Dermot his younger brother has died, leaving the Malenfer family without a male heir and asks Dermot to go to Malenfer Manor to find the birth certificate of his illegitimate sons so the Malenfer name does not cease to exist. At the Manor only three remaining Malenfers live, Madame, Arthur’s mother, Sophie, Arthur’s widowed sister, and Simonne, Arthur’s niece. Simonne is regarded as the black sheep of the family, but she is the sole heir to the Malenfer estate and is engaged to the son of the Mayor of the nearby village. The reason why the Malenfer name is in danger is because of a curse a witch has spoken out over the family centuries ago, since that day very few Malenfers have lived into old age and died of natural causes. The twins, who work and live on the estate, are in danger of the curse now it is known that they are Malenfers. When people are starting to die it’s up to Dermot, Arthur and Simonne to solve the mystery and try to get rid of the curse of Malenfer Manor.

Normally I don’t like novels where war plays a major role. However, I did like this book, the scenes set during the war and the fighting give a good explanation why the various characters behave like they do. I really liked the atmosphere in this book, of the maybe haunted Malenfer Manor. I also liked how McChesney makes you doubt if the deaths are due to the curse or if they have a more mundane cause.

My only point of critique is that I would have liked to know more about the witch. At the beginning of the novel she is hanged because of accusations she had made and more could have been done with that; why did she made those accusations, were they true or not?

Nonetheless a very good read.