It's been thirty years since I first read Ammie, Come Home and if it's a little dated, it's still one of the best and scariest ghost stories I've ever read. Groundbreaking at its debut, Ms. Michaels set her contemporary gothic tale in fashionable Georgetown. Her characters are nice, university and civil service types who lead nice, academic, upper middle-class lives. When confronted by incontrovertible evidence that a malevolent spirit is inhabiting Ruth Bennett's elegant home, they go out to dinner and consult libraries.
If there is such a category as a cozy Gothic, Ms. Michaels is its absolute queen. Nobody does nice people caught in a web of evil as convincingly as she does. With every plate of cookies, pot of tea and polished mahogany table, with every warm yellow circle of lamplight, she lulls the reader into a sense of safety so that when the 'coiling mass of oily smoke' appears in the drawing room, it's a shock. No hunchbacks, moldering castles or ruined abbeys for Ms. Michaels--her horrors take place in well-appointed, spotless homes, amid familiar people, and a doubly scary for it.
Her characters are appealing and flawed, and grow as they fight the supernatural. The slightly wild child Sara, uptight Ruth, flamboyant Pat and slightly effete Bruce are likeably imperfect, and the utterly chilling denoument results in a satisfying personal ending for each. Ammie, Come Home is one of my all time favorite comfort reads and never disappoints.