Glinhaven by Deborah O'Toole is a traditional gothic fiction novel similar in style to classic 1970s paperbacks written by Dorothy Daniels, Marilyn Harris, Victoria Holt, Marilyn Ross (aka Dan Curtis), and Phyllis Whitney.


Piper Hunt leaves Boston to take over her grandfather's unique curio shop in Glinhaven. While adjusting to life in the quaint seaside village, she uncovers dark secrets hidden at the forbidding Glinhaven Monastery which may unlock mysteries from her past.

From Chapter One

THE AIR WAS THICK WITH fog when Piper Hunt took the Glinhaven exit from Route 128. She descended into the village slowly, her headlights on high-beam. The glare barely cut a swath through the veritable pea soup, allowing her to see only a few inches ahead. Her lifelong familiarity with the area helped, but she remained cautious nonetheless.

It was a typical November evening in Glinhaven, bone-chilling cold, damp and dreary. Piper was used to it, having been raised in the Massachusetts fishing village, a scant five miles from Gloucester and a thirty-minute drive from Boston on a good day.

She hadn't been back since late summer, and probably wouldn't be here now if she hadn't received word about her grandfather's sudden death.

Piper felt numb inside as she maneuvered her silver Honda Civic onto Main Street. Old-fashioned gas lamps, usually striking with their black crown tops, barely illuminated the road tonight. In the murky light, she made out Purdy's Café (less than lively at the moment, which was no surprise considering the weather), the post office and Crow's Nest Lodge. She had a brief flashback of her graduation from Glinhaven High nearly ten years ago. Piper joined the senior class in celebrating their freedom with dinner and dancing in the Crow's Nest, staggering home near dawn. At the moment, it seemed like another lifetime.

She stopped in front of the Glinhaven Funeral Home a few doors down, which had been a village mainstay for more than three hundred years. Whether by sea, disease or natural causes, those who died inevitably found their way to the establishment. While she didn't remember much about her mother's funeral, Piper knew this time would be much different.

She drew in a ragged breath as she stared at the mortuary. There was light in the two windows facing Main Street, muted by sheer white curtains. She felt hot tears stinging her eyes, as if suddenly realizing her only living relative in the world now laid in repose within its historical environs. Her grandfather never seemed to have a sick day in his life, which made his passing all the more devastating. When he came to see her in Boston just a few short weeks ago, she had no inkling it was for the last time.

Piper turned off the car engine and sat quietly, reaching back in her mind to replay the telephone call that came to her apartment in Boston earlier that evening. She had barely arrived home from work with Chinese takeout, balancing the bag of food in one arm as she unlocked the front door with the other. She was looking forward to spending a peaceful evening alone, having been inundated with demands from co-workers and members of the paying public in her position as assistant director of the Museum of Fine Arts on Huntington Avenue. One of the nicer aspects of her job was her apartment was only a few blocks away, located on Isabella Street.

She answered the telephone, which rested on a table near the front door. The bag of food was still in her arms. "Hello?"

It was Annabelle Drummond, the middle-aged Glinhaven native who worked as her grandfather's cashier at The Thistle curio shop.  "Piper?" the voice said. "Is that you?"

"Yes, Mrs. Drummond. I recognize your voice after all these years."

"Sorry to bother you at home, but . . ."

"Is something wrong, Mrs. Drummond? You sound out of breath."

"It's about Duncan . . . your grandfather," Annabelle replied, her voice audibly shaky over the phone lines. "He's gone. He had a stroke at the top of the stairs in the shop, and then tumbled down. It must have happened last night. I found him just lying there when I arrived for work this afternoon . . . there was no pulse . . . the ambulance arrived, but the EMT's said he'd been gone for several hours already." The woman began to sob. "Oh, Piper, I'm so sorry . . ."

Piper recalled standing in her apartment, the telephone receiver against her ear as she held onto the Chinese food. In an instant, the bag slipped from her arm and fell to the floor. She couldn't remember much after that. After talking with Mrs. Drummond, she stepped over the bag of Chinese food and left her apartment, back down to her car on the street.

Now here she was, nearly an hour later, sitting in her car outside Glinhaven's only funeral home. She recalled Mrs. Drummond saying EMT's had taken her grandfather's body directly to the mortuary after leaving the curio shop. Where else could they take him? What was the point of a hospital, after all? He was gone in one fell swoop.

Gathering her purse, she stepped out of the car. She stood still for a moment, breathing in the cold air. Her reddish-black hair fell just past her shoulders, with the side part falling over her right eye. She had a slight frame, adorned by slender limbs and thin hands, with a wide-tipped nose that flared at the nostrils. She wore a fashionable hat perched on her head, as was typical of her style and which gave her a distinctive appearance. Tonight she sported a black, bell-shaped cloche with a dark grey bow, the attire she had worn to work that same day. Her brownish-green eyes were somewhat sunken into her face at the moment, her skin seeming to be paler than usual as she stood in the swirling mist.

Locals rarely gathered with any force during a heavy bout of fog, so she felt utterly alone on the street. She hurried to the double doors of the funeral home, feeling the misty chill penetrating through her clothes. She opened the doors and slipped inside.

It was warm, and quiet. The light had an amber quality about it, which was intended to soothe those who came to the mortuary to say goodbye to loved ones. A small office and long corridor led from the foyer, with two rooms on each side opened by double doors. Piper was aware these were the final service rooms, used when the dead were prepared and ready to be seen. Further back into the building were more offices and two large prep rooms, where bodies were taken to be made presentable for public viewing.

Piper stood in the foyer for a moment, listening for human sound. The silence seemed deafening, but then she heard a delicate sneeze come from nearby.

"Hello?" she called out. "Is anyone here? Audrey?" There was a slight edge to her voice, a twinge of anxiety. Since exiting her car on the street, she felt as if she'd stepped into the mystical twilight zone, alone and left to defend herself.

She heard a chair scraping from the small office near the foyer, and then quick footsteps. A second later she saw Audrey Glade. The plump, dark-haired woman was dressed in a wine-colored pantsuit, frills from the creamy white blouse underneath tickling her chin. Audrey was the local mortician and funeral director, in the process of taking over the business from her aged father, Maurice.

"Piper," the woman said softly as she drew closer. "I'm so sorry."

Piper didn't know what to say. She was suddenly wordless, devoid of coherent thought. Instead, she gave Audrey a blank stare. The older woman gave her a quick hug, drawing back slightly to look into Piper's eyes.

"Losing your grandfather was such a shock," Audrey continued, her voice hushed. "So unexpected. Duncan was always so strong and healthy."

Piper continued to stare at the woman, who was also her godmother for all intents and purposes. Audrey was the same age as her mother; the two were friends during their high school years. Piper had known Audrey all her life. The older woman had seen her through her mother's death, and would undoubtedly provide a strong shoulder of comfort now that Duncan Mochrie was gone.

She finally found her voice. "Thank you, Audrey. Thank you for taking care of him."

Audrey flushed slightly, bringing a natural hue underneath her artificially brushed cheekbones. "I haven't had a chance to work on him yet," she confessed in apology. "It was all so sudden. By the time I was informed Duncan had passed, you were already on your way here." She gazed at Piper with sad eyes. "But he looks good, like always. He seems almost - well, he looks peaceful." She hesitated. "Would you like to see him?"

"I'm not sure," Piper stammered. She wanted to remember her grandfather as he was, not as a dead body lying on a slab.

"There's nothing to fear," Audrey promised. "As I said, he looks peaceful. If one didn't know better, you'd think he was just sleeping."

Piper nodded. "Okay."

She followed Audrey to the rear of the mortuary, where they entered a large metal door marked "EMPLOYEES ONLY." The room was relatively small, but decidedly chilly and rather forbidding with its stainless steel tables and cabinets.

Duncan Mochrie lay flat on his back on the central metal table, a white sheet pulled over his body.

"Would you like to be alone with him?" Audrey whispered.

"No, please stay."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm a bit undone," Piper admitted. "I feel as if I'm in stuck in a horrible nightmare. My grandfather was always larger than life to me. He was steadfast and always present. I just can't believe he's gone."

Audrey touched her shoulder. "I know, my dear," she said sympathetically. "I'll stay right here with you."

Bolstered by the older woman's presence, Piper pulled the sheet from her grandfather's upper body. She gasped. Other than an unnatural waxy paleness, he did indeed look like he was just sleeping. The trim white beard traveled to long sideburns at the jaw, both stark against dark eyebrows and peppered gray hair. His long body was slender rather than thin, remarkable for a man of eighty-nine years. How could a stroke topple such a healthy giant of a man? A good and kind soul housed in a clean temple? And why did God take the noble and worthy, only to leave behind the cruel and undeserving?

Piper blinked her eyes. "Did he suffer?" she asked softly.

Audrey shook her head, keeping her voice low. "I don't think so. Annabelle called 911 just seconds after she found Duncan, and they came rather quickly after that. One of the EMT's told me your grandfather must have been dead several hours before they arrived at The Thistle. They believe he had a stroke and died almost instantly."

"He died in his curio shop," Piper noted vaguely. "Doing what he loved." She had to reason his death, put a positive light on the unthinkable.

Audrey touched her shoulder again. "Do you need a place to stay tonight?"

Piper looked puzzled. "No. I'll stay in the apartment above the shop. There's no need to avoid it, Audrey. I lived in the flat for most of my life, and have many happy memories."

"Of course," Audrey replied quickly. "I just thought you might be uncomfortable."

"No, not at all."

"If you're up to it, we can get together tomorrow and plan Duncan's memorial."

Piper gazed at her grandfather's peaceful face again. "We never talked about death," she told Audrey. "He never told me what he wanted, nor did I tell him my final wishes. All I know is we have plots at Glinhaven Cemetery, next to my mother and Grandma Mochrie."

"As it should be," Audrey agreed. "We can figure out the rest in due course."


GLINHAVEN ©Deborah O'Toole. All rights reserved.

"Glinhaven" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "Glinhaven" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.