Thursday, November 17, 2011

Velda Johnston: The Hour Before Midnight

I found this gothic romance/romantic suspense novel by Velda Johnston, The Hour Before Midnight, published in 1978, at my local friends of the library. The cover is unexceptional, but when I saw it, I had to pick it up.

I like Johnston's work, but she treads a line between the two genres mentioned above, and I find her novels to be uneven in quality. This novel is not one of her best, in my opinion.

The Hour Before Midnight

Here's a list of Velda Johnston's titles with a picture of her. This page is from the literary agency that handles her estate:

Velda Johnston

In the novel, Judith Dunne, an American artist travels back to London to work on her illustrations. The murder of her fast and wild cousin the year before, Cecily Grenville, still haunts her.

Someone wants the past forgotten, and Judith is in danger.

Plot: 3/5-- I figured out whodunnit early on, though I did like the large variety of male suspects. I didn't enjoy the predictable plot twist of mental illness. A better ending would have been... well, I'll let you read it. Let me know what you think. :) Also, references to the common culture are pretty neat as are the stories of the British monarchy.

Characterization: 4/5-- I liked the hero and didn't pinpoint him as such right away. The heroine is also likeable and believable.

Atmosphere: 3/5-- A few genuinely creepy moments occur in the story when Judith finds the murder weapon--a nasty cleaver in a neat hiding place--but overall, there is nothing paranormal or really Gothic about this one other than some of the story line.

Romantic elements: 3/5-- The story in this regard was so/so.

Rating: 3+ stars

**If you like older romantic suspense, London in the 70s, or Velda Johnston's work, I recommend this one. Otherwise, you might skip it for something with a bit more Gothic atmosphere.


susied said...

I have some of her books in my TBR pile but can't recall off-hand what titles.

And speaking of title, aren't there some really cool ones on her website?

Nice review!

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