Friday, January 23, 2015

The Vanishing--5 stars

I get Amazon gift cards from my family a lot. They know it's the way to my heart. Diamonds? I do like those. Gargoyle bookends? Yes, please. But an Amazon gift card elicits squeals of delight. There's something about having money specifically dedicated to the books my heart desires that fills me with happiness. So in perusing Amazon to choose my purchases, I often follow a rabbit's warren of "other customers who bought this item bought--" or "other titles you may enjoy." I can spend hours at this. Hours, people. And one of those sojourns is how I came across The Vanishing by Wendy Webb. The novel instantly appealed to me. The synopsis reminded me of Barbara Michaels or Barbara Erskine--both authors who's books I've read and re-read. I'm a sucker for a good Gothic. Plus, the book had ghosts, a horror author (wait, I'm a horror author), and an interesting setting. Sold! Trying Wendy's work was one of my best decisions ever.

You can read about Wendy Webb over on The Author Spot where she was kind enough to let me interview her. Now on to my review of The Vanishing.

Synopsis: Recently widowed and rendered penniless by her Ponzi-scheming husband, Julia Bishop is eager to start anew. So when a stranger appears on her doorstep with a job offer, she finds herself accepting the mysterious yet unique position: caretaker to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, the famous and rather eccentric horror novelist whom Julia has always admired . . . and who the world believes is dead.

When she arrives at the Sinclairs' enormous estate on Lake Superior, Julia begins to suspect that there may be sinister undercurrents to her "too-good-to-be-true" position. As Julia delves into the reasons of why Amaris chose to abandon her successful writing career and withdraw from the public eye, her search leads to unsettling connections to her own family tree, making her wonder why she really was invited to Havenwood in the first place, and what monstrous secrets are still held prisoner within its walls.

The story grabbed me from the very beginning. Julia's life is in ruins, she's bankrupt, people she considered friends now hate her, and her husband--the one person who could tell everyone she wasn't in on his scheme--is dead. So when Adrian Sinclair shows up on her doorstep and makes his offer, what choice does she have? And once we arrive at Havenwood, the story really gets going: ghosts, a hint of madness, a mystery, and a hunky Scottish caretaker.

The narrative is simple and direct, the story well paced, and the characters well drawn and sympathetic. The atmosphere is delightfully eerie and will have you just as uneasy as our heroine, Julia. The mystery is involved enough to not have you guessing the ending right away, in fact it took me quite a while, while the hint of romance is just enough and doesn't overpower the story line. 

I liked the book so much, I immediately ordered Mrs. Webb's other two novels: The Tale of Halcyon Crane, and The Fate of Mercy Alban. I loved them as well, but I'm partial to The Vanishing. I highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys Gothic tales, especially those put in a more modern setting. Fans of spooky tales, who like it a little lighter than the horror genre's usual offerings will enjoy this one as well. Five stars from me.

Happy Reading,


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