Barbara Erskine's books tend to follow a recognisable pattern -but each time, she shakes her kaleidoscope to create a new and enthralling variation. The result is always a novel very difficult to put down. I've never taken more than three days to finish any of her books.
The heroine of Time's Legacy is Abi, an Anglican priest. Harassment from her disturbed superior, Kier, who has decided she is a witch, drives her from her Cambridge parish into retreat near Glastonbury. Unfortunately Kier has no intention of letting her go that easily. As Abi tries to evade him, she is drawn into the story of the haunted place where she is staying. Through the medium of the crystal her mother left to her, she watches as a two-thousand-year-old tragedy unfolds. It's an experience which will lead her to question her faith, her identity and her future.
The Glastonbury area is beautifully evoked, both in the past and the present: as I read I could hear the birds, smell the wood-smoke and feel the touch of swirling mists. The creation of atmosphere is Barbara Erskine's speciality. She uses layers of description to build up tension to the point where you are almost afraid to turn the page.
But she also knows how to break up the tension - and in fact, no-one can combine chills and cosiness the way she does. On one page, kettles boil, cakes come out of the oven and labradors snooze by the fire; on the next, rain spatters the window, the electricity fails and the dogs begin to whimper as footsteps are heard overhead. Even though you thought you were alone in the house. It's an irresistible combination.
Time''s Legacy didn't topple my two favourite Erskine novels, Lady of Hay and Midnight is a Lonely Place, from their pedestal. Nor did I feel it was all it could have been. Although I loved the last page, I wasn't altogether convinced by the way things were tied up and there are some loose threads ' like the couple Abi meets in a coffee shop who are introduced by name: I kept waiting for them to reappear before realising belatedly that they wouldn't.
Notwithstanding, this is a very recommendable book ' entertaining, suspenseful and thought-provoking. If you've never read any Barbara Erskine, this would be a great place to start.