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A haunting, a murder, and a ruined Scottish Abbey...

A haunting, a murder, and a ruined Scottish Abbey...

What happened at the Abbey by Isobel Blackthorn is a must-read Gothic Mystery.

Official blurb

When Ingrid flees a violent husband to become a housekeeper in the Scottish Highlands, she discovers the family she works for has a much darker history than her own.

Who haunts Strathbairn? Why are the adult McCleod children at each other’s throats? And why does the youngest sneak off at night? As Ingrid searches for answers, she grows ever more fearful that her husband will track her down.

Set in late 19th century Scottish Highlands, WHAT HAPPENED AT THE ABBEY is a gothic mystery brimming with intrigue, ghostly drama, and family secrets.


My thoughts

Loved all the twists in Isobel Blackthorn’s, What happened at the Abbey. With all the usual deft and nuanced style I expect from Blackthorn’s writing, the story protagonist, Ingrid Barker, moves from one anxiety-producing situation to another. Ghosts, long-buried secrets, a dysfunctional family, a ruined abbey, her traumatic marriage, and a bog entirely too close to the house for my liking; there are enough twists and turns in this story for the most avid mystery reader. Isobel has dragged Ingrid from the frying pan and tossed her into the fire in this one.

The historical setting is well-described, from architecture and landscape to characters and their occupation. Character interactions are relatable, layered and fluid. The knowledge and experience of the long-serving staff underpins relationships between family and servants on an individual and collective level. Many having known the family since they were young and borne witness to the dysfunction between spouses, siblings and, of course, parents and children. There’s a certain tangled familiarity between “upstairs and downstairs”, which Ingrid must unravel if she and her daughter, Susan, are to survive.

Sandwiched between these layers is the identity of the ghost, a bundle of mysterious letters, and an ominous and overbearing portrait of a recent ancestor whose grim countenance taints everything in his shadow. And let’s not forget what happened at the Abbey and how is this connected to everything else.

A haunting, a murder, and a ruined Scottish Abbey are more than enough to lure me into a good read and if you’re a fan of Gothic mysteries, I highly recommend take the lure as well, If you’re new to the genre, this is a great story to dive right in to.


About the author

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, historical fiction, and dark psychological thrillers. Her Canary Islands collection begins with The Drago Tree and includes A Matter of Latitude, Clarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun. Isobel explored her interest in the occult in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey and the dark mystery, A Perfect Square.

Her dark thriller, The Cabin Sessions, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award 2018 and the Ditmar Awards 2018. Isobel’s biographical short story, Nothing to Declare, which forms the first chapter of Emma’s Tapestry, was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019.  A Prison in the Sun was shortlisted in the LGBTQ category of the Readers’ Favourite Book Awards 2020 and the International Book Awards 2021. The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey received an Honourable Mention in the 2021 Reader’s Favourite Book Awards.

British by birth, Isobel entered this world in Farnborough, Kent. She has lived in England, Australia, Spain and the Canary Islands.

Find Isobel Blackthorn online at the below links:

·        Website

·        X (Twitter)

·        Instagram


Book Information

·        Genre:  Gothic mystery, melodrama

·        Print length: 324 pages; 94K words

·        Age range: This is an adult book but suitable for mature older teenagers

·        Trigger warnings: off-scene marital abuse

·        Amazon rating: New release, not yet rated

 I received a free copy of this novel with a request for an honest review. as part of a Coffee and Thorn Book tour.

A shorter version of this review will also appear on Amazon (Australia) and Goodreads.


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