Christy Mansell is on a pleasure trip to Damascus when she meets her cousin Charles. Their great-aunt Harriet lives in the High Lebanon, where she plays a sort of Lady Hester Stanhope role, living in a decrepit old palace secluded from everything. There’s an unspoken rule that nobody is allowed to visit her, but Christy decides to pay her great-aunt an unexpected visit. Met with resistance at first by Harriet’s doctor, Christy gains entry into the palace, but she and her cousin soon discover that not all is as it seems.
Christy Mansell is typical of Mary Stewart’s heroines; she’s young and spunky, and used to doing whatever she pleases. Under any other writer, this sort of thing might get annoying, but somehow Stewart manages to make each of her heroines unique. Also expected is the romance aspect of the book, which I wasn’t quite as satisfied with as I was with the rest of the book, but enjoyed nonetheless. The romance story lines of Mary Stewart’s books are always gentle and understated.
As with all of her novels, The Gabriel Hounds moves at a tight, rapid pace; I don’t know how Mary Stewart ever did it, but her books are always infused with the right amount of suspense. And yet, the outcome of the story totally came as a surprise. It’s this combination of the expected and the unexpected that make Mary Stewart’s books so appealing.