This novel was published in 1973 by little known but recommended, Aola Vandergriff. Thanks for the recommendation, Hannah!
Check this lovely cover art out-- one blond sister and one brunette. The blond has red blood like a tear running down her cheek. The estate is in the lower left hand corner. I apologize for my blurry image there. I dropped my phone, and the camera cracked. Sigh. I think you can still get the general idea of how unique this cover art is.
Twin sisters Shannon and Shelly Shelby (Try saying that one quickly twelve times!) have inherited Sorrow, a plantation handed down to them after their grandfather's death. Shelly has gone ahead but sent no word to Shannon.
Shannon, with the keen knowing that twins have, fears something has happened to Shelly. She goes to Sorrow with trepidation to find her sister. Her arrival throws the house into turmoil, and she meets a troubling group of people attached to Sorrow. Belle, her distant relative and the (old south racist) house mistress of Sorrow, warns her to leave or there will be trouble; Lutie, Belle's simple daughter, is frightening in her mysterious intensity. Annie and Thomas, black servants, warn Shannon to leave before it's too late, too. Then there is Yance Carey, a local lawyer who is advocating for change around the estate and for nearby Tullytown. Whom can Shannon trust, and it is really the ghost of Jason that she hears at night, singing? And where is Shelly?
Characterization: 5/5 [Very nicely done. I pictured Shannon as one of the Olsen twins and Shelly as the prettier one. I can never remember which is which. One would have dyed blond hair to play Shelly, and the other's hair would be brown, for the role of Shannon. Belle I pictured as a composite of Southern women I've known personally. Yance might be portrayed by Casey Affleck; I don't know why, but the character description made me think of him.]
Plot: 4/5 [This novel is unique and suspenseful. Only one thing drove me nuts: exclamation marks are overused! It's very dramatic! Drama, of course, is part of the Gothic Novel, but most authors let the drama fall into the novel through good dialogue and description, rather than bludgeoning readers with it via exclamation marks. One page honestly had more than ten of the blasted things. Otherwise, the plot moves swiftly, and I had no idea where this one was going for a long time.]
Atmosphere/spooky elements: 5/5 [This novel has so many creepy elements: the singing ghost (if it is a ghost), lights in the swamp, the family burial plot, spooky servants, mentally challenged child, inventive murders, flashbacks, a secret diary, winding staircases, and on and on.]
Literary elements: 4/5 [This one feels a bit fluffy, but it's a great read.]
Rating: 4+ stars ****+
Lovers of Gothic Romance and/or Southern Gothic Novels, you won't want to miss this one. It has been a wonderful introduction to Aola Vandergriff, and I plan to seek out more of her novels.
Sisters of Sorrow