Recent winter storms have left much of the country shivering, freezing and snowed-in. Even with the icicles melting and the days getting longer, it is still winter, which is the best time for books that make you shiver! A good ghost story is just the thing to make your spine tingle, and Wendy Webb's latest novel, THE VANISHING, has plenty of spooky happenings to make you draw the covers up close. Even the characters in this story feel the chills and shudder from fright as they confront spirits from the past and wind their way through the dark halls of a haunted old house.
Julia Bishop is a recent widow whose husband was guilty of swindling people out of their money. Three months after Jeremy's suicide, having been shut up her in home all that time, feeling nothing but shame and guilt, Julia receives an offer that would allow her to disappear and avoid being implicated in her husband's very public crimes. The offer comes from Adrian Sinclair, the son of horror writer Amaris Sinclair, long believed dead but in actuality living a life of seclusion in a remote mansion called Havenwood. Adrian says he knows about Julia's troubles and is aware of her past as a writer, and thinks she would make a good companion for his mother.
"THE VANISHING is an entertaining read, written with both a sense of horror and a sense of fun. It is the perfect story for stormy weather, and dark and chilly nights!"
Feeling she has few options left, none of which are good, Julia leaves her life behind and heads to Havenwood. Havenwood feels at once ominous and vaguely familiar and comforting to Julia. Right away she settles into her routine as companion to Amaris Sinclair, a feisty and eccentric woman in her 70s who left behind a career as a bestselling novelist for reasons that are unclear at first. Also living at Havenwood are servants, including the somewhat cold Marion and groundskeeper and distant relation Drew McCullough. And, of course, the ghosts.
Julia starts hearing voices almost as soon as she arrives at Havenwood. She hears the voice of a young child singing nursery rhymes as well as that of her dead husband on the phone. Is she, off the medication she has recently relied on for depression, hallucinating? Or is Havenwood really haunted as its other residents seem to believe? As Julia tries to understand her new home, why the Sinclairs have brought her there, and her passionate and immediate attraction to Drew, she keeps returning to a woman named Seraphina who, in 1875, conducted a terrible and disastrous séance in the East Salon, a room recently re-opened for use.
Who was Seraphina really? And what is her connection to Julia Bishop? Why was Julia brought to Havenwood, and what secrets are Adrian, Amaris and Drew keeping from her? THE VANISHING is a thrilling and fun page-turner. With lots of mysteries to be revealed and plenty of dark shadows to explore, readers follow Julia as she tries to understand the scary situation at Havenwood and the dangers --- perhaps real, perhaps imagined --- she finds there. While this is mostly a traditional gothic ghost story, Webb weaves in some compelling examinations of the ideas of leaving, vanishing and returning. Guilt and responsibility are concepts that Julia and the other characters wrestle with as the truths of the various connections become apparent. Identity, too, is something not taken for granted in the novel, and the plots twists will keep readers just as up in the air and excited as Julia herself.
THE VANISHING is an entertaining read, written with both a sense of horror and a sense of fun. It is the perfect story for stormy weather, and dark and chilly nights!
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 24, 2014