Saturday, February 15, 2014

Review: The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

The Vanishing
by Wendy Webb
Release Date: January 21st, 2014
2014 Hyperion
Softcover Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-4013-4194-7
Genre: Fiction / Supernatural
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

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.

My Thoughts
The Vanishing has all of those elements which I adore: spiritualism; age-old secrets; big, spooky mansion; Scottish laird who protects the property; mystery; and of course, the resident ghost story.  It is also one of those novels where you sort of have to put your skepticism aside throughout the duration, and sort of take things as they come.  It is exactly the type of book I needed to read while laid up flat on my back for three days recovering from pneumonia - something light and easy, something that didn't test my brain cells overly much, and which I rather enjoyed.

During a seance over a hundred and fifty years ago, something evil and dark was unleashed in the house.  To be quite honest, I never really felt satisfied with the answer to what exactly was unleashed and I definitely was not satisfied as to how the ending / solution to the problem was resolved.  Hence the rating I gave to this book.  It was just a tad too easy and pat, everything resolved easily and satisfyingly.  Really?  A powerful medium in the past couldn't do this very same thing, and in comes Julia with the ability to suddenly resolve everything so easily and neatly?  I didn't buy it.  The rest of the plot, I basically suspended by doubt and skepticism and just went along with it, and rather enjoyed the events in the story, but you can only bend skepticism so far.

Julia's character I rather enjoyed, except I thought she was too trusting.  Just to go with a stranger and live with them without knowing anything about them seems rather risky to me, despite the financial difficulties you face.  And I can't imagine, in this day and age, that she can just run away and that no one would ever be able to find her.  Even with some of the events that followed, the police would be able to tell if what happened, actually happened.  If that sounds rather vague, I have to write it in such a way as to not give away important plot points, which is rather difficult.  There is just this assumption that because she is now living in this big mansion, she will no longer be found and is perfectly safe from the law.  Again, suspension of belief only goes so far. 

The Vanishing is not a novel of any great complexity, but it certainly fun to read, and the storytelling is fairly riveting.  Any novel where one is living in a mansion that is chock full of ghosts, its inhabitants are full of secrets, mysterious happenings keep occurring, and then a blizzard turns off the power for a few days, and anything can happen, which does.  Ms. Webb certainly has the ability to tell a story.  In a novel such as this, a reader needs to suspend a certain amount of belief and I usually have no problem with that.  However, when that suspension of belief becomes too much, and at the most important part of a novel such as this, I am left feeling disappointed, and basically cheated from a good ending, it was a bit too much for even sick ole' me.  I would recommend it though, as with The Fate of Mercy Alban, Ms. Webb certainly does have the ability to mesmerize and I had difficulty putting it down. 


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