By Clea Simon
Harvard Square on a late November night would not have seemed so ominously spooky had Harvard graduate student Dulcie Schwartz not been spending her evenings transcribing the haunting ghost story of a handwritten manuscript possibly written by the author central to Dulcie’s doctoral thesis. However, the need to grade the student papers that she had forgotten in her office sends her back to the campus building and has her braving the lonely night and jumping at the sound that seems all to reminiscent of a wolf’s howl. A startling confrontation with her advisor Martin Thorpe frightens her into a sprint home, a childish reaction that seems all too sensible when she learns the following day that a woman was attacked that night barely two blocks away and Thorpe denies ever having been present nearby.
Even more disconcerting is Dulcie’s discovery that the woman had red-hair like herself and eerily enough like the “flame-haired” character in the manuscript. While Dulcie’s boyfriend Chris Sorenson attempts to reassure her she is extremely disturbed by the combination of her melodramatic mother’s prophetic warning to be wary of the wolf and the possible ghostly cautioning by Dulcie’s beloved cat Grey. Grey may no longer live in this world but his protective spirit has never left Dulcie and continues to guide and appear whenever she needs him the most.
Simon perfectly combines gothic elements with an academic mystery to create a completely unique and compelling novel. All of the characteristics of classic gothic mysteries that are present in the manuscript Dulcie studies come vividly to life in her own world, but she is comforted by the thoughts of her new kitten Esme and the always protective spirit of Grey. Just as entertaining are the infighting and political machinations that exist in an Ivy League college and have her advisor’s position at risk to more popular academics with impressive published accreditations to their names. The relaxed pace of the novel appropriately falls in line with a classic gothic novel and builds up to a surprising confrontation that threatens both Dulcie’s life and the work she is determined to complete. This is a very unique mystery that blends aspects of gothic novels and academic mysteries and will please readers with affection for compassionate and protective animal companions.