Lois Duncan (Steinmetz Arquette) Kirkus Reviews - Essay

Kirkus Reviews

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

When Kit and the other three high ESP-quotient pupils [in Down a Dark Hall] who have been chosen for Mme. Duret's new boarding school get their first sight of isolated Blackwood manor only one word comes to their minds—evil. But you don't have to be psychic to anticipate some fishy goings on—what with the locked gates, unmailed letters home and those nightly dream visitors who inspire the girls to discover hitherto non-existent artistic talents. When the spirit guides, including Emily Bronte, Schubert and landscapist Thomas Cole, start using the increasingly weary girls as a channel for delivering their posthumous masterpieces to Mme. Duret (who will use them for financial gain) only resolute Kit has the will to resist openly. Stranger still, Mme. Duret's honest and irresistibly handsome son Jules considers the whole undertaking a noble experiment—until he learns the fate of his mother's previous pupils and sees the nasty creations of some dirty-minded deceased artists who have been insinuating their way into the nocturnal dictation sessions. We aren't let in on the unpleasant details, but of course by this time it's too late anyway…. Blackwoods goes up in flames and Kit is rescued from a fiery death by the ghost of her own departed Dad. This last (especially?) is on the slick side, but Lois Duncan (A Gift of Magic …) is a practiced medium and manages to summon up the chilling specter without dwelling overmuch on its distinguishing features.

A review of "Down a Dark Hall," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1974 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLII, No. 18, September 15, 1974, p. 1012.