In 1956, a summer solstice party at the Alban family’s elegant manor ends abruptly with the suicide of a renowned writer and the disappearance of Mercy Alban. The family closes ranks, and the secrets of that night lie hidden.
In the decline of old age, Adele Alban has decided to break the silence and reveal what she remembers about that night to a journalist. Before she can do so, however, she also disappears, only to be found in the garden, dead. Her daughter Grace Alban had left the ancestral home on the shores of Lake Superior 20 years ago, escaping the waters that had murderously claimed the lives of her brothers and the guilt surrounding her father’s suicide in those same waters. Recently divorced and with her teenage daughter, Amity, in tow, Grace is quickly engaged by funeral arrangements, a task made less mournful by the attractive Reverend Matthew Parker. Soon, Grace discovers a cache of old love letters. Written to Adele, the letters not only reveal a secret love affair, but also tell of a lost novel about life at Alban House the summer before the tragic party. More sinisterly, the letters suggest that the very wood constructing Alban House is bespelled and the family witched. And when a frightening and possibly mad woman crashes the funeral, accompanied by the reporter Adele had intended to meet, the curse of the Alban family can no longer be ignored. Webb (The Tale of Halcyon Crane, 2010) plots a tale rife with dark family secrets, hidden passageways, love, intrigue and witchcraft. Yet, the telling of the tale falls flat. Supernatural entities do invade the Albans’ lives, but the tale lacks a sustained gothic atmosphere of evil forces gathering and conspiring.
Less haunted house than detective story.