Castle of Heavenly Bliss

Revised 2018 paperback
ISBN 978 1 876262 20 8
US$27.99 from Amazon
A$27.99 plus postage (See below)

GERDA VROUWENDIJK, under the name of Edith Bicknell, arrives in the isolated rural town of Binawarra to take up a teaching position in the local high school. Ms Vrouwendijk is confident she can keep her disguise and purpose hidden, as well as her dark connections. But she has not reckoned on Florence Barker. Miss Barker, severe spinster, feared and avoided by the townspeople (‘you will call me Miss Barker’), is not at all what she seems. Nor has the memory of a brief meeting fifteen years earlier in Middelburg, Holland, with the crippled local priest, Fr van Engelen, come back to Ms Vrouwendijk. These slips in her otherwise meticulous planning will prove critical.

Canny Miss Barker and Fr van Engelen set about discovering what Edith Bicknell is doing in their obscure little country town, and why she has an interest in the beautiful, outwardly aloof Estella Winterbine. A tense game of cat and mouse follows as Ms Vrouwendijk’s manipulation of people and events becomes ever more complex. When a senior teacher is found dead at the bottom of a peak (called Death Rock by the local youth), and the local newspaper begins attacking the Principal of Binawarra High School, Ms Vrouwendijk’s plans – whatever their aim – seem to have an unstoppable momentum. Then Estella goes missing.

Former SAS captain and Vietnam veteran, Geoffrey Shawcross, with whom Estella has secretly fallen in love, sets off in a pursuit that takes him across the world. But to his growing anxiety there is never hard evidence he is on the right track, and the reasons for the abduction remain a mystery. There are signs that time is running out. Miss Barker is not there to advise; she, too, has gone missing. Geoff’s desperate efforts to discover the motivations, counter the threat and rescue Estella with his little team of amateurs brings the story to a rushing climax.

The themes of the ‘Goddess’, neo-paganism, the occult and Gnosticism are introduced as the story progresses. The ideological conflicts of the 1960s form the background to the story. This is the first book in the Winterbine trilogy.

I have carried out an intensive style and text revision for the 2018 revised paperback and 2017 ebook editions. Except for a small but important adjustment to the character of Estella in the final chapters and additional material to bring the story more into line with In This Vale of Tears, there has been no change to the story. The minor adjustment to Estella aimed to bring out character traits established in the previous chapters whose consequences did not emerge clearly enough in those final chapters. Because most of the story takes place in 1975, I have expanded the background of the vast social and political changes of the 1960s. This background is indispensable for the story.

I am confident the revisions present a far more polished and consistent story leading into In This Vale of Tears, the second book in what will now be at least a three-book series.

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The Castle of Heavenly Bliss

Writer … and still in the fifties