So, I strolled back into the world of Dark Shadows today, picking up where I left off with audio book 42 - Carriage of the Damned.
The story picks up shortly after the end of The Happier Dead, where Amy lost her latest love, Simon, at the hospital where no one was dying, no matter how horrific the injury. Residing at Collinwood, she is asked by Sabrina to undertake a mysterious task of digging up the unmarked grave of Gerard Stiles!
I'm glad they are back to the ongoing DS saga here, and even more thrilled to have a number of original cast members - Lisa Richard (Sabrina Jennings), Kathleen Cody (Hallie Stokes), and James Storm (Gerard Stiles), as well as Denise Nickerson (although she is not playing the role of Amy Jennings, which she created back on the original show - instead, Stephanie Ellyne continues as Amy, while Denise takes on the role of actress Elspeth Gardner, who was previously seen in The Darkest Shadow). Then, we also see the return of some minor characters, such as nurse Pauline Brown (who was in The Happier Dead) and Matthew Samuels (who was seen twice before on the trail to Collinsport in The Enemy Within and The Lucifer Gambit). Thus, the continuity of the DS audio world continues to grow.
The writing of this story is very Dark Shadows-esque - with not only the head of Gerard Stiles (a la the head of Judah Zachary), but also the use of a crystal to track Stiles, and a spell cast to connect the lone train car with the drawing room of Collinwood. This author, thankfully, tones down the use of expletives that seemed to overpower the last audio. Plus, we get reminded that Barnabas and Julia are off with Professor Stokes in Egypt (which will be told in an upcoming audio story), Carolyn is still at school in Salem, and Elizabeth Stoddard is away for a month. No word on David and Maggie, although there is reference by one of the characters towards the end as to whether Maggie will be prepared for all these guests.
I did enjoy the "mystery" of this tale - who exactly is trying to resurrect Gerard Stiles and why? Is it Sabrina, looking for a way to end her werewolf curse? Is it Hallie, hoping to gain revenge for what she perceives Gerard did to her all those years ago? Is it one of the other passengers who are stuck on the train car with them? The eccentric actress, Elspeth Gardner? The highstrung nurse, Pauline Brown? The gruff military major Crawford Jacobs? Or the mild mannered train conductor, Matthew Samuels? It really is anyone's guess until more than 2/3 of the way through, at which time it becomes clear who is really behind it all and why.
I will admit, however, there are a few places where it becomes a bit difficult to tell who is talking - Kathleen Cody and Lisa Richards at times sound very similar, and when you add Stephanie Ellyne into the mix, well, let's just be grateful they do say each other's name on occasion to keep the cast clear!
The story ends (SPOILER ALERT!) with Amy saying goodbye to Collinwood and Collinsport, vowing to never return...(of course, having listened to the Bloodlust series, we know that she later returns as Amy Cunningham, having married and now with step-children).
RATING: 9 stranded rail cars out of 10 for keeping the "creep"factor alive and well in Dark Shadows, and for maintaining a roster of background characters that show up when you least expect it!