I love creaky old houses, dusty attics and ghost stories. So does Wendy Webb. She's taken on the modern Gothic in her last two novels and again with her latest book, The Vanishing.
Webb sets the stage with a prologue from 1875 - a seance gone horribly wrong in the mansion known as Havenwood.
Present day. Julia Bishop's life is a mess. Her husband has died - but not before he swindled hundreds of people of their savings. He's gone, the money is gone and any friends Julia had are gone. She has no family either. So, when a stranger shows up offering her a job as a companion to his reclusive mother, she has nothing left to lose by saying yes. He's offering her the opportunity to start again and completely vanish from her current life. Oh, the job just happens to be at Havenwood....
Now, there's nothing better than immersing yourself in a spooky tale on a cold winter's night. So, although I found the premise a little bit flimsy and questioned some of Julia's actions, I just went with it. Because, I really wanted to see what secrets the mansion held. What happened there in 1875? Why has Julia been sought out as a companion? Where would Webb take her story from this beginning?
I had great fun imagining walking through the many wings of Havenwood - the library particularly caught me! All the hallmarks of a great ghost story are here - mysterious family matriarch, son who travels a lot but discourages others from leaving the estate, handsome stable hand, a wonderful set of dogs who can sense things not seen and more.
While not overly frightening, The Vanishing was a lovely, atmospheric read for a miserable day. (The power goes out during a snowstorm at the mansion. This actually happened at my house that day as well!) Webb throws in a delicious twist at the end that was perfect.
Read an excerpt of The Vanishing. You can find Wendy Webb on Facebook and on Twitter.
And thanks to the great folks at Hyperion Books, I have a copy to give away to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment to be entered. U.S. only, no PO boxes please. Ends Feb 15/14.