One of my favorite past times for the chillier, darker evenings of this time of year is curling up with a hot cup of tea, thick, soft blanket and a spooky story that presents dark mysteries stretching back and forth between the present and the past. After reading and enjoying Wendy Webb’s The Fate of Mercy Alban I knew she would be an author to look for when these sorts of nights presented themselves. She does not disappoint with her newest thrilling mystery The Vanishing.
After Julia Bishop’s husband swindles millions from strangers and friends alike in a Ponzi-scheme and then kills himself, leaving her alone to face the consequences of his heinous actions, Julia wants nothing more than to disappear and get a fresh start. When Adrian Sinclair arrives on her doorstep and offers her the opportunity to do just that by coming with him and serving as his mother’s companion she jumps at the chance. Sure, it is a little disconcerting that Amaris Sinclair, the famous horror novelist who Julia has always idolized and everyone believes has been dead for years, has instead been living in a secluded estate in the middle of the wilderness near Lake Superior. But this chance to leave her past behind might not happen again. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?
As it happens it doesn’t take long for Julia to realize the beautiful estate of Havenwood, and its various occupants, are hiding quite a bit. She cannot shake a distinct feeling of déjà vu around every corner and everyone seems almost too nice, accommodating and familiar. The figures in the paintings seem to whisper to her and strange visions keep presenting themselves. Julia cannot decide if she is hallucinating or Havenwood is actually haunted. As more and more strange occurrences keep happening and Julia demands answers from Amaris, Adrian and the charming man due to inherit Havenwood, Drew McCullough, she discovers a dark and ominous presence also resides at Havenwood, one that reaches far back into Julia’s family history and one that her presence has once again awakened.
The Vanishing has all the elements that make for a wonderful eerie mystery: secrets slowly unraveled, things that go bump in the night, strange noises around every corner. While I had a vague idea where the story was leading there were still elements that ended up surprising me, which always makes for an enjoyable reading experience. The characters are delightfully well written, especially Julia and Amaris Sinclair, and I would have loved to read even more about their backgrounds and experiences that lead each of them to Havenwood. The pacing was spot on as well and I was often surprised to look up and see that I had been reading for far longer than I had intended to. I just kept trying for one more chapter to see what new information would be presented.
My only complaints with The Vanishing were the fact that certain descriptions – such as a chill running up Julia’s spine and her stomach churning – were repeated a little too often until I had a slight sense of déjà vu myself. Also I found the epilogue strange and wasn’t quite sure what it was supposed to mean for the future of the characters. Still, these small issues mean very little when presented next to the deep foreboding feeling and development of the story.
The Vanishing is a great book for anyone looking for a spooky story mixing mystery, history and the occult. It is a quick read and one perfect for a cold, gloomy weekend. I am now a firm follower of Ms. Webb and will be keeping an eye out for her next novel.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Hyperion. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.