The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb

The Fate of Mercy AlbanBook Review:  The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb

The Albans have been the talk of the town for decades.  One topic in particular refuses to go away — the evening of the Alban’s Solstice party in the summer of 1956.  David Coleville, a famous writer, committed suicide in the garden and Fate Alban disappeared.  Fifty-some years later, a journalist is in town, asking questions.

Grace Alban was born several years after that fateful night but she has her own reasons for shunning the family home.  Her mother’s death brings her back to the mansion on the shores of Lake Superior and suddenly she’s not only dealing with her grief, but she’s also confronted by the long-buried family secrets the reporter is determined to uncover.  A packet of old love letters and a lost manuscript hold clues to those secrets.

I enjoyed this book in spite of a few shortcomings.  My biggest complaint is that I was apparently more interested in knowing what happened the summer of 1956 than the main character — despite the fact that persons unknown keep breaking into her home, and a crazy aunt has landed on her doorstep, Grace is too quick to set aside her best source of clues, too often.  It was jarring.  I’m flipping the pages as quickly as possible and she keeps setting Major Clues aside for later.  Really?

My next complaint is that certain things happened much too quickly.  One minute, the housekeeper is with the crazy aunt, the next minute the crazy aunt is footloose and crazy-free.   One minute, Grace’s daughter is by her side, the next minute she’s been whisked away without a hitch despite the fact that several people are in the room AND a table is between the daughter and the perpetrator.  Really?

More of a quibble than a complaint, some of the supernatural elements simply didn’t work for me — the shadows, for example.  The epilogue.

All that said, I still found this book to be deliciously spooky.  Webb can create atmosphere — she just needs to iron out a few kinks to sustain it.  She relied a bit too much on things happening because someone had to be someplace for something to happen.  She needs to employ a subtler hand in these scenes in order for the reader to feel that OMG moment.

I loved the history Webb created for the Alban family and house.  Webb didn’t really sell me on the transformative event in Mercy’s life but that’s something I could just accept as part of the storyline and move forward — Webb did sell me on many of the other spooky events, when she took her time creating the scene and didn’t just plop us into it.

If you liked Michael Koryta’s So Cold the River, give this a try and let me know what you think.


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