It's 1892 and Lady Phoebe Ashbourne's sister, Emmeline, is getting married.
This seems like just another regular occurance in Victorian England, even in the county of Derbyshire, but when the girls approach their grandmother, the Dowager Countess of Gastgern, with their younger sister Delphine they find out that there's something much more sinister and demanding in store for Ashbourne women who hope to marry. A curse stalks the Ashbourne line and the girls must solve three ancient riddles to save Emmeline from the same fate as their young mother.
But even darker secrets are waiting to come to light as the Ashbourne sisters go cross-country in their search for the answer to the Gastgern Hall riddles.
The pale, dull light from outside did it’s best to fill the room with what I can’t really describe as sunlight as it had nothing of the brightness and slight golden quality that that word conjures up. It lay lightly on the room like a thin muslin cloth and darkness still sat in stagnant pools by the shelves, as though hiding malice in every corner.
I suppose I was imagining it, but everything had taken on a sinister quality since granny had made her revelation and I could not shake the feeling that the library had become an altogether different place since I was last in it. Granny took to the centre of the wide room and we followed her, our eyes glancing about the room as though the riddles would leap out at us from some orifice or other.
“Now Emmeline,” Our grandmother’s voice reverberated through the empty space around us, “I want you to concentrate. I know it may sound silly but the origin of your riddles should be known to you already. Most probably you are not consciously aware of this. The best way I can describe the feeling is when you have lost an item that you know you have seen earlier in your day. Your subconscious knows where it is, it just takes the conscious part of you a little longer to catch up. You can help it by concentrating on that feeling of power I spoke of before.
Granny ordered Delphi and I to follow suit, in the hopes that a focus of all our inner ‘power’ would help lead Emme to the location of her riddles. After a few moments I felt something stir in me and I realised I could feel my sisters around me in a way I had never sensed them before. It was as though we had become connected by a set of invisible strings, each one wavering with each fleeting thought or emotion. I couldn’t hear their thoughts or really feel any real emotion, I could just feel their- well, their characters I suppose. Then, after I had started to become used to the feeling, I could feel something tugging on the string between Emme and I. At first it was subtle but it became stronger and all of a sudden it felt like something had sliced through the string.
I caught my breath at the feeling, it wasn’t painful of such just…uncomfortable. As I opened my eyes they instantly fell on the bookcase in front of me. I could see the book, and I knew that it was the one. I whispered its name, colour and even the page number on my breath and I’m sure that neither my sisters nor my grandmother could make out anything but the susurration of my breath on the air.