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The Fate of Mercy Alban

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Horror (2013)
From award-winning novelist Wendy Webb comes a spine-tingling mystery about family secrets set in a big, old haunted house on Lake Superior.

Grace Alban has spent twenty years away from her childhood home, the stately Alban House, for reasons she would rather forget. But when her mother's unexpected death brings Grace and her teen-age daughter home, she finds more haunting the halls and passageways of Alban House than her own personal demons.

Long-buried family secrets, a packet of old love letters and a lost manuscript plunge Grace into a decades-old mystery about a scandalous party at Alban House, when a world-famous author took his own life and Grace's aunt disappeared without a trace. The night has been shrouded in secrecy by the powerful Alban family for all of these years, and Grace realizes her family secrets tangle and twist as darkly as the secret passages of Alban House. Her mother was intending to tell the truth about that night to a reporter on the very day she died - could it have been murder? Or was she a victim of the supposed Alban curse? With the help of the disarmingly kind--and attractive—Reverend Matthew Parker, Grace must uncover the truth about her home and its curse before she and her daughter become the next victims.

344 pages, Paperback

First published February 5, 2013

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About the author

Wendy Webb

8 books2,282 followers
WENDY WEBB's novels are mysteries about long-buried family secrets, set in big, old haunted houses on the Great Lakes.

THE END OF TEMPERANCE DARE (2017, Lake Union) is set in a former tuberculosis sanatorium on Lake Superior, now a renowned retreat for artists and writers. When Eleanor Harper takes the helm as its new director and her first batch of visiting artists arrives, she begins to suspect this isn't going to be the restful retreat she thought it might be.

THE VANISHING (2014, Hyperion) is the story of Julia Bishop, who takes a job as a companion for a famous novelist, who the entire world thinks is dead. When she travels to the novelist's remote estate, she begins to suspect her too-good-to-be-true job offer is exactly that.

THE FATE OF MERCY ALBAN (2013, Hyperion) is an Indie bestseller. It's the story of Grace Alban, who returns home after 20 years when her mother dies under questionable circumstances on the very day she (the mother) planned to reveal the truth about a tragedy that occurred during a party at Alban House long ago. A packet of old love letters and a lost manuscript by a famous novelist lead Grace to the haunted truth about what really happened that day.

Wendy's first novel, THE TALE OF HALCYON CRANE (2010, Holt) was an IndieNext Pick, a Great Lakes Great Reads Pick and a Midwest Connections Pick. It won the prestigious Minnesota Book Award for genre fiction in 2011, and was a finalist for Le Livre de Poche's Prix des Lecteurs award in France in 2012.

A longtime journalist, Wendy lives in Minnesota.

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5 stars
2,244 (25%)
4 stars
3,278 (37%)
3 stars
2,287 (26%)
2 stars
676 (7%)
1 star
166 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,234 reviews
Profile Image for Mandy.
129 reviews24 followers
June 24, 2013
Well....I have some serious issues with this book.

I wanted to love it. I really did. But I feel like it aimed too high. It wanted to be serious literature, when really, it's nothing more than a mass market paperback in disguise. A cosy mystery dressed up as a ghost story.

Problems I had...

1. The romance is so, so contrived, and one of a hundred things that was simply unbelievable. It starts abruptly, and the end up in bed together relatively quickly, even though he's a minister...really? Has the author ever *met* any ministers? how many young, single ministers are jumping in bed with parishioners without losing their appointment? Pbbbt. Plus all the baloney with the police at her beck & call, doing whatever it is she wants them to, blah blah...ew.

2. The female characters are all VIRTUE NAMES....ugh. A clumsy device that smacks of allegory without ever fulfilling the promise of connectivity. I feel like every one of them are so disjointed from one another as to be barely aware of one another, let alone related.

3. At one point, I was reading a book about a woman reading a book about a man who wanted to write a book that the woman in the book and I were both now reading. Ms. Webb, it didn't work for John Barth, it's sure as hell not going to work for you.

There were more. I'm surprised I finished it, to be honest. I can see myself passing it on, but with the caveat of "it's too light to really get into and it will be over before you know it." The premise was so promising, and I think that's what makes my disappointment so bitter.
Profile Image for Mutantreptile.
180 reviews1 follower
August 31, 2013
Character 1: "I know everything that's going on! You will understand everything...but first I have to wash my hair. "

Character 2: "I want to find out because my family is in danger, but we don't know why. All answers are apparently in this old manuscript, but I can't read this if the minister isn't here so I can flutter my eyelashes at him!"

Swiss Doctor: "You're in danger, but I can't tell you why because I have other patients to see."

And no one says anything because they are always too busy doing something else.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,293 reviews424 followers
October 8, 2014
There's nothing I can say about this book that hasn't already been said in all the other one- and two-star reviews, and probably said better.

If I had to write a synopsis, it would look like this:
Grace Alban, a not-too-bright, rich, white woman who may have been influenced by B-list '40's noir movies, becomes embroiled in a melodramatic and drawn-out episode of Scooby Doo only without the Mystery Machine & Gang.
December 13, 2015
I loved this book which contains a little bit of everything.....there is murder (more than one!), mystery, family secrets, a little paranormal activity and just a smidgeon of romance.

Grace Alban returns to her childhood home, the stately Alban House, following her mother's unexpected death, bringing along with her her teen-age daughter. Long-buried family secrets, a packet of old love letters and a lost manuscript plunge Grace into a decades-old mystery starting with a long ago summer solstice party when her mother's first love was brutally murdered and her aunt disappeared, never to be seen again.

This is like a traditional English mystery, but set in a country mansion on the shores of Lake Superior. There are ghosts, hidden passages, and faithful family retainers who know more than they are revealing.

An altogether entertaining read, and I will be seeking out more from this award winning author.

The narrator, Kirsten Potter, also did a marvellous job.
Profile Image for La Crosse County Library.
545 reviews121 followers
July 8, 2021
I really loved this book! It has all the makings of a good nighttime summer read. A rich family with dark secrets, a haunted mansion with hidden passageways and peepholes (how cool is that?), creepy and insane relatives and plenty of suspense and twists all made this book hard to put down. It even had a touch of romance. I appreciated that this story took place on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, a favorite vacation spot for my family. The familiar landmarks made this book come alive and the mansion depicted is eerily similar to the local Glensheen Mansion. I have since read three more of these “Northern Gothics” by Wendy Webb and have enjoyed them all. I look forward to her next book! 5 stars!

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Profile Image for Barb.
1,156 reviews126 followers
May 25, 2013
I'm amazed by the favorable reviews of this book. I'm disappointed that I was lured by M. J. Rose's quote "If Sarah Waters and Stephen King had a love child, it would be Wendy Webb!" I'm going to try very hard in the future to disregard author quotes promoting books. I've known for years that many of them are friends who travel in the same circles and are happy to write up a nice blurb for a fellow author's latest book. I'm offended on behalf of Sarah Waters and Stephen King by the comparison of their writing to Wendy Webb's.

This is one of the most disappointing books I've read in a long time. I'm relieved that I was able to borrow it from my local library, I was planning to purchase it and now I'm very glad I didn't waste my money on this. The writing was sophomoric at best, the dialogue was lackluster, the character development was minimal and the story was disappointing. There is a story within a story and an author who compares his story to the writing of Daphne du Maurier. I find name comparisons to du Maurier within a story a cheap attempt by the author to set the mood or tone of a story. The only thing the comparison did for me was highlight how far from du Maurier's style the writing is.

The progression of events throughout lacked realism, the word choices and sentiments shared between the characters are equally unbelievable. The adult relationship was so forced and adolescent it made me cringe. There was a juvenile feel to the entire story and the constant playback of events made it feel like a remedial reader mystery.

The only thing I liked about this book was the fact that my local library saved me from wasting my money on it.
Profile Image for Kelly.
15 reviews1 follower
August 10, 2013
One and a half stars is my true rating because I alternated between not liking it and thinking it was ok. I really, really wanted to like this book. Clearly it was based on the history of the Glensheen Mansion which I have visited a few times so I found that aspect intriguing. It hinted at ghosts and mysterious pasts and writers, all good elements in my favorite kind of spooky read. I kept with it only because I wanted to know what the ultimate outcome was.

Ultimately, the bad writing did me in and I didn't care for any of the characters. Grace didn't seem all that compelling and I never sensed she mourned the loss of her mother. It just seemed like a plot device to get her involved with the mystery. Matthew was just too convenient as the sidekick and love interest. Amity didn't seem to add a whole lot until the craziness in the last few pages. Jane and Mr. Jameson were essentially caricatures of Irish house staff a la Downton Abbey.

The bottom line is that I'm so disappointed that an intriguing concept and a fascinating setting didn't come together. I wanted to feel that kind of ghost story that only the Gitche Gumee can conjure and it fell far short of being so.

April 4, 2013
I am stumped as to why this book has received an average of four stars. This was a very average "ghost story" that seemed to be set in a house that sure seemed like the Congdon Mansion in Duluth. One star for that. Plus it seemed like the family was loosely based on Congdons themselves,no stranger to occasional murder and arson. One star for that, equalling two. Beyond that, I really wanted to like this book by a local author who seems to like to write these spooky/mystery/big old house on the Great Lakes books. I just kept coming back to the fact it was not well-written. Ho hum, I think I found myself saying. I did finish it though, so I suppose I was interested. But not sure I will be anxious to read anything else by this author.
Profile Image for Mayda.
2,930 reviews58 followers
February 26, 2018
This novel would have been better if the author had skipped the paranormal part of the tale, and used normal means to develope the plot. It’s almost like she inserted the paranormal aspect as an afterthought. The lives of the Alban family were interesting enough without making some members other worldly. And for readers who are looking for that scary demension, there just wasn’t enough. The characters seemed real enough, except for her depiction of the small town minister. He was not a typical man of the cloth! This novel is an entertaining read to while away an afternoon, especially with the audio version so you can fold laundry or cook dinner at the same time. It’s just not a great story.
Profile Image for Tanja Berg.
1,808 reviews402 followers
November 23, 2013
Rating 4* out of 5. I considered deducting a star for slightly amateurish writing, a few too many clichés and a couple of plot holes - but I didn't. All in all the mystery is well-built, the dramatic tension is fantastic and there is definitely a full score for entertainment. I thoroughly ejoyed it, despite my initial misgivings.

Grace Alban returns to her childhood home upon her mothers death. The family is filthy rich, to put it mildly, and the house is huge. However, Grace has stayed away for twenty years because of the burden of her brothers' death and her father's suicide. That's not the extent of the family's baggage of misery. In the 1950's her father's sister Fate disappeared. Before that Fate's twin sister Mercy had suffered a tragic early death.

Grace returns and sifting through her mother's things she finds love letters from a journalist who clearly intended to marry Adele, the mother. The journalist mentions a manuscript, a "thinly veiled" account of what he experienced in the Alban house the summer of 1956. Grace eventually finds the manuscript with the help of the ever so friendly local reverend Matthew.

At Adele's funeral another journalist enters the picture, with long-lost aunt Fate in tow. The myster of that and where's she's spent the last 50 years entwines with the answers given by the long-lost manuscript.

I must admit I love old houses, particularly houses with hidden pathways and peepholes in the walls. I'd have loved living in a house like that, despite the creep factor. So the setting of the events in this type of house was just perfect. So if you enjoy a fairly short book about old houses and family secrets, with the tiniest dash of supernatural, then this is the perfect read. I wouldn't categorize this as "horror", it's more a family saga thriller. Perfect for a dark and rainy November.
Profile Image for Lorraine.
1,001 reviews79 followers
July 13, 2021
Present day Minnesota close to Lake Superior. Wendy Webb’s The Fate Of Mercy Alban centers around the “the stately Alban House” and the Alban family. The protagonist, Grace Alban, and her daughter, Amity, are returning to Grace’s childhood home after Grace’s 20 year absence for her mother’s funeral. Adele Alban’s death is unexpected, and the confusion that surrounds it as Jane, the housekeeper, attempts to explain what had taken place to Grace alerted this reader that all is not right at Alban House, but what? The author’s hauntingly atmospheric narrative definitely keeps one’s interest. Throw in secret passages, old family secrets, a cache of lost love letters, and a missing manuscript provides the recipe for this ‘unputdownable’ mystery! 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Kimberly.
398 reviews48 followers
July 11, 2015
Five star, beautifully and perfectly written, atmospheric, spooky, engaging, strikes from page one, not a dull moment, deep family secrets, nail-biting, up-till-2am reading, fantastic book.

I loved it. I feel this book will knock your socks off. Its a wonderful read for a stormy day, curled up somewhere, or out on the beach under an umbrella. I think this is one of the best books Ive read in years.
Profile Image for Stephanie Mohler.
854 reviews2 followers
March 25, 2013
I would love to live in this house- a mansion on the lake w/secret passages and rooms. Unfortunately, the book wasn't very good. The most interesting character dies in the 1st few chapters and we're left an unscary mystery that spans several generations, a stupid heroine, a gross romance between heroine and the local reverend, and a bratty teenager. Just not good...
Profile Image for Katie Kenig.
513 reviews25 followers
July 8, 2015
I love ghost stories. And haunted house stories. And stories set in old gothic houses. This is all three. And it's wonderfully done.

The Fate of Mercy Alban is a story about family secrets, set in a beautiful old mansion on Lake Superior. Well, beautiful and creepy. You see, the house is full of secret passages, little peepholes, tunnels to the beach, entire hidden rooms, and lots and lots and lots of secrets.

When Grace Alban's mother dies, in the old family manse, she heads home with her daughter Amity to settle up affairs and get things in order. She relocated herself to the west coast years ago, so hasn't spent much time since she's become an adult in the old house, with it's aging team of servants and host of tragedies hanging over it. You see her two younger brothers died in the lake. So did her father. And before she was born, there were other deaths, too.

While going through her mother's things, Grace discovers a box of letters from her mother's first love - a young man who committed suicide at the house in 1956, the same year her great-aunt disappeared from a party there, never to be seen again. One of the letters mentions a manuscript, and Grace hunts that down as well. That's when things start to get really interesting.

This book contains a book within a book - and it's so well done here that you can hear the difference in "voice" from one "author" to the next. I sometimes get annoyed with book-within-a-book stuff, but this was really fun, discovering the past with Grace, through the manuscript written by the young man who was visiting the family back in that fateful year of 1956, and what he encountered in the house. Not the least of which was creepy women in white dancing in witch circles on the beach outside his window.

Grace begins to uncover family secrets, long hidden, known only now to the dead - and maybe to the faithful and discreet servants of the house. Her searching turns up more than she ever bargained for - between a reporter hounding her for family tales to write a book with, questions surrounding her mother's death, her daughter's safety being at stake after break-in's at the house, and the turning up of a creepy, creepy old lady relative, Grace has her hands full.

This book has great pacing, kept me right on the edge, staying up far too late a few nights in a row to keep reading. It's very hard to put down. The characters are fascinating, relatable and engaging, and you see a good amount of character development through the novel. The setting couldn't be more wonderful, and I kept flying off into imagination trying to see all of the rooms and porches and corridors in my head. I really loved this book and will be looking for more by the same author. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes creepy (but not gory or gross) gothic stories. Just don't read it alone in the dark.

June 2, 2016
I was elated to discover Wendy Webb: joining a rise in authors who create enticingly atmospheric, non crime-focused, paranormal mysteries for adults! More authors are beginning to mould ethereal-tinged novels for adventure-seeking grown-ups! I considered it the highest treat to save up and procure all three of her novels. “The Tale Of Halcyon Crane”, expectedly, earned five appreciative stars. This feedback is a little lower because two heavily-repeated writing habits throughout “The Fate Of Mercy Alban” affected the enjoyment of reading strongly. However it is as creative, moody, and mysterious as the first. Ghosts were even sparser but both are assuredly ethereal novels.

To describe this special novel without giving away revelations that must be left for future readers to discover when they reach those chapters: it is about a family with two immense secrets. The heroine’s brothers perished in a boating mishap and their Father wasn’t the same after their loss. Awful survivor’s guilt impelled her to leave but her Mother visited and when she had a daughter, the child visited the family’s mansion each summer. Her Mother dies under peculiar circumstances at the novel’s opening, when it was known that she intended to reveal one secret to a persistent reporter.

My Mother is so informative, I don’t buy most secrets. I do call out as an illogical cliché, the reticence of elderly employees with paramount information! These typical protestations are a waste of paper. The other irritation is that we could not escape the word “dinner”, on any page and characters always “touching an arm” or “shoulder”. Incessant “head-shaking” was worse! I began wishing those heads would fall off. I cannot fathom why editors don’t catch repetition that persisted as outrageously as these. Wendy’s enchanting settings and exquisitely-knitted layers of extreme secrets, genuinely and easily merit five stars.
Profile Image for Amy.
357 reviews34 followers
February 3, 2013
Wendy Webb’s latest novel, The Fate of Mercy Alban, should come with a warning label; from its opening pages readers will find it impossible to not read this book in one sitting. The plot is filled with tantalizing twists and turns that will keep readers turning pages until the many mysteries of this novel are resolved. Grace Alban and her teen aged daughter return the stately Alban House on the shores of Lake Superior after her mother’s sudden and unexpected death. After an absence of twenty years Grace is not eager to face her childhood home, or the many heartaches of her past, yet her Alban heritage requires her, the only surviving heir, to make decisions regarding the future of the estate. A surprising find of a stash of love letters written to her mother, but decidedly not from her father, thrust Grace into a decades old mystery surrounding a party at the house at which a celebrated journalist and author committed suicide and Grace’s aunt mysteriously disappeared. Grace and Amity, with the help of the handsome Reverend Matthew Parker, begin to unravel the mystery only find that there may in fact be some truth to the legend of a family curse. It is not long before Grace and Amity find themselves in danger, and the race for answers becomes a matter of life and death. Filled with multiple plot lines including a budding romance, family secrets, and a hint of the supernatural, this novel is sure to please readers of family sagas as well as gothic fiction. Readers will be delighted to find a satisfactory ending as well as a sinister one, ensuring that The Fate of Mercy Alban will live on in the minds of readers long after the final page has been turned.
Profile Image for Shelly♥.
686 reviews10 followers
March 3, 2013
Grace returns to the family mansion on the shores of Lake Superior following the passing of her mother. She reexamines the tragedies that drove her away and confronts the family curse. Meanwhile an aunt long thought dead shows up with a nosy reporter ready to expose all of the families secrets. Grace needs to get to the bottom of what happened on the night her aunt disappeared so many years ago.

Oh Wendy Webb, I wanted to LOVE your book. I did. As a girl who grew up on the shores of Lake Superior long displaced from the Midwest, I really enjoy stories set in my old stomping grounds. But this story was just not it. It did have lots of things I loved. The plot itself, as a mystery, possibly ghost story of a long unsolved "murder" was intriguing. The old mansion with it's secret passages and fake basement with tunnels certainly fit the mode for mystery. I loved the characters and the small town feel of the book.

But the whole wiccan link and the aunt being raised from the dead just didn't sit right with this story. I thought a better more plausible explanation for the crazy twin would have made the book better. Also, the introduction of the "book" into the text - should have not been done. The book was written in the 50s by a man, but yet had the same tone and language as the novel itself. I don't know a male author would have his male character "pad" to the window in that time frame. It would have been better to have Grace "imagine" the story as it was read. It just didn't work for me.

Honestly, I was stuck between a 2 and a 3, but I found a few of the plot elements and the mystery enjoyable, so I went with the 3.

Profile Image for Sara.
171 reviews15 followers
April 20, 2017
5/5 Stars

I wish I could give this book 10/5 stars! It was AMAZING. This is the second book that I've read by Wendy Webb, and let me just say that I liked it far more than The Vanishing. This was a real page turner, and I finished it in less than 48 hours. The characters were all pretty average, but it was the plot that really drew me in.

This book is like a story within a story, and both stories are pretty creepy. I was constantly on the edge of my seat trying to figure out the mystery facing the characters past and present. By the time the story was over, and all the connections were made my mind was BLOWN! This is the perfect read for a gloomy day, and trust me you won't want to put it down.
Profile Image for Ashley.
636 reviews
February 26, 2013
Overall, I greatly enjoyed the mystery of this story. It kept me on the edge most of the time...but at a certain point a little over halfway through, it became pretty predictable and too drawn out. Also, the daughter, Amity, really detracted from the story. I rewrote quite a bit in my mind to make the novel bearable. First, I have a hard time believing Amity was 16. In order to finish the story without being annoyed I decided she could really only be 10 years old based on her behavior. Additionally, I "removed" all the "honey's" from the dialogue because I found them to be equally, if not more, obnoxious. The pastor, Matthew, became a local business owner. He didn't come across as a man of God much, more like a Sunday-only Christian. For these reasons, I'm only giving this novel 3 stars.
Profile Image for Melanie.
3 reviews
January 21, 2014
As many other mentioned, this book can be one you read in one sitting because you can't put it down. However, I did so in the hopes that the book would get better or the ending would be worth the effort through the weak and choppy parts, but alas that was not the case. The book is touted as a ghost story, but there are no ghosts, but instead witchcraft to "explain" the happenings. This element just didn't work and completely killed the mystery. We're supposed to believe that after Mercy came back to life, the family was able to keep her hidden for years despite the large staff and numerous guests they have? And yet, when Mercy does get out, kills her twin, and takes her place, none of them figure it out? None of that was even slightly believable. The best part was the novel that Coleville wrote, and we barely got any of that.

I wanted to like this book as the premise seemed very promising, but it felt rushed and just too implausible to really capture my attention. The character development of the modern day Albans and staff was insufficient. Jane, for example, a homicidal maniac is on the loose in your home and you still don't want to tell anyone what happened over 50 years ago? Really?

I'm willing to suspend a lot of belief for a good story, but this just wasn't it. It was reminiscent a bit of The Thirteenth Tale, which did a much better job of telling the story and building the characters.
Profile Image for Rita.
82 reviews27 followers
May 20, 2013
More reviews : Sun/Salt + Letters 

So, I am a chicken, in a big, BIG way.
That said, I would never pick this book up in a book store, just because of the whole ghost story thing..
That's why I'm so thankful to Goodreads giveaways.

I just loved it, it's very creepy, but not being too much..
Pacing starts picking up after introductions are made, but I could not put this down. Read it in a couple of days and that was only because I had no time to read in one sitting.

The romance is not very good, but since is not the main story line, it works as a nice touch to the story..

I loved the writing style, as soon as the story starts to get too crazy, Webb grounds everything with a touch of reality.
Really don't have, waiting to see what the author comes up with next.

Sun/Salt + Letters
Profile Image for Carol.
2,251 reviews71 followers
May 27, 2020
I'm keeping this one short and to the point. It's a gem of a story that contained everything from mystery to romance...ghosts to witches and spells. Just a perfect Gothic story. The ghost story junkie is a happy camper.
Profile Image for Natalie.
154 reviews
December 23, 2013
I have to say that despite some definite issues I had with this book, I was hooked from the very first page and while I agree with many of the various reviews on this book, I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

Some high points: I loved the old mansion with secret passageways and hidden basements and old money. I enjoy reading about the supernatural and this book was full of it.

Now, some lower points: While the supernatural is something I enjoy in books and I was along for the ride in this book until it was understood that Mercy had actually been risen from the dead from old Irish grandparents. What? I was expecting just the twist on the whole twin thing but certainly not that.

I enjoyed Grace's character and the minister although he seemed a bit spineless and close to a little puppy dog following Grace around.

I loved the setting, the mystery (parts of it), and the flow of the storyline. I also really loved the novel within a novel although...this David guy was supposed to be some brilliant Pulitzer prize winning author and the chapters of his book within THIS book were awful!!

Now for the bad parts. The worst part for me was actually the epilogue. I felt it totally unnecessary and was actually disappointing after a rather enjoyable book.

I have to agree with some of the other reviewers when they talk about how Grace pompously throws around her status and money because in the beginning of the book she appeared way more humble. The part about the hospital and how her ancestors paid for this and that was off putting for me....and the police all in their pockets seemed a stretch too. Police guarding every door? seriously, come on.

I was hooked from the first page...loved this book. The characters, the mystery, the flow of the storyline, all excellent...until the epilogue, which for some reason I just didn't like.

I hate inconsistent characters. The daughter and the relationship between Grace and Amity were stereotypical and corny. The dialogue didn't feel natural and Amity was quick to change from a texting, music listening teen to a girl sleeping with her mother and listening to a decades old story being read aloud. Also, the journalist. I liked his threatening character in the beginning of the book but became a marshmallow when he realized...suddenly...that he was most likely the offspring and...oops, did I cause all this problem? The Switzerland doctor was annoying too. Really, someone just came in and got her out of the country? What about a passport?

And while I did like the secret passageways, etc. what bothered me was how every room had a peephole of sorts? I would never feel safe in a weird house like that.

The staff for a house that size also seems rather small too.

All that being said, I gave this four stars simply because I enjoyed reading it, despite its flaws, and enjoyed the storyline (sans the rise from the dead), and the mystery and the idea of an old manuscript hidden somewhere.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ana Lopes Miura.
208 reviews113 followers
June 28, 2022
“This manuscript has the answers to all of the mysterious happenings in this creepy house. I think I’ll read just one page and then go to sleep”.

“I know the complete truth about absolutely everything that happened and I will reveal it to you! But first, I’m going to go get a taco”.

“We have been locked in the basement with only the mysterious manuscript that contains all of the answers to our problems. What could we possibly do in order to pass the time? Definitely not read the manuscript!”

Ad nauseam.
Profile Image for Kristen.
588 reviews34 followers
Want to read
December 28, 2013
I am 2% into this book and already have been yanked out of the story a number of times, by terrible cliches, and by words and phrases evoking ridiculous stereotypes. It's like there was no editor.

"...placing one hand, wrist slim as a reed, across her forehead..."

Adele is "brittle" and "unsteady" and yet without apparent cause other than being 70. Is the author 18 years old? Because 70 is hardly the advanced dotage she makes it out to be, at least not without an associated medical condition.

The attendant came from "the old country" without mention of what that might be. If this story is set in present day, as it appears to be, even 60 years ago was the 40s or 50s, and in the 40s and 50s, Ireland wasn't called "the old country."

"Your mother was teaching you the tricks of the trade."

"She clucked in disapproval."

Adele is, as previously noted, brittle, elderly, unsteady on her feet, and yet she decides to "climb the hill and get some exercise" which will "do her good." Alone.

And this is just the first chapter.

I have a Three Chapter Rule, and I'll give it another two just to see if this author manages to get some steam going and the story captures me in spite of the not great writing. Other reviews have mentioned that this novel is actually just grocery store fiction, which somehow means we shouldn't expect it to be very good. That's a shame because the premise is promising. I hope she turns it around.
Profile Image for L.E. Fidler.
705 reviews73 followers
December 7, 2013
how do you solve a mystery like a haunted mansion on the great lakes?


look, it's a truth generally acknowledged round these parts that i'm a wimp. so, while i'm sure if i read this book in the broadest of daylight that i would have found it annoyingly cheesy, i didn't. i read it in the pitch black of night when everyone else in my house had the good common sense to be sleeping.

how's that for being born under a bad sign?

i'm not in love with any aspect of this novel. the names annoyed me, grace annoyed me, her daughter annoyed me, the fact that the flashback was't the main narrative thread annoyed me, etc, etc, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

but to be totally fair to the author, it's not really my genre, either.

i just sort of hate how in EVERY SINGLE BOOK WRITTEN ABOUT WOMEN FOR WOMEN every time there's a single dude in the vicinity - EVEN A MAN OF THE CLOTH! - it's like "oh, hey, let's 'ship' these two bitches up!"


2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,686 reviews14k followers
February 24, 2013
This was a perfect book for reading during a snowstorm with the wind howling and the fire dancing. I love that authors are still writing ghost stories that do not depend on enormous amounts of gore and body parts. Just the words "Hospital for the Criminally Insane" sends shivers down my body. Don't think they are called that anymore, at least I don't think they are because of our new renaming of everything due to political correctness. Good solid story, of course one has to suspend whatever they have as their own belief system, but all in all a book with secret passages, an old family name,and of course family secrets that come back to haunt, in more ways than one.
October 3, 2020
Years ago, Grace Alban left her family home, determined to escape the painful events that haunted her. The unexpected death of her mother brings her back to Alban House, with her teen daughter in tow. It turns out that Grace's mother had intended to tell a reporter about some of the Alban family's secrets. Was it the Alban family's curse that killed her?

As Grace tries to figure out what the next steps will be for her and Alban House and introduces her daughter to some of Alban House's more benign secrets (nifty secret passageways), she begins to uncover things about her family that even she was unaware of.

The description for this book referred to Alban House as "haunted," and that's what I was hoping for: a creepy story, with lots of atmosphere, about a haunted house and a family whose history was filled with dark secrets. Instead, I got zero atmosphere, completely different supernatural aspects than what the description had hinted at, ridiculously convoluted family secrets, and cheesy and clunky "horror."

It didn't help that, as the story wore on, I became more and more tired of the Alban family and how their wealth and "respectable" status in town helped them bypass almost every difficulty and consequence without hardly thinking about it. Even Grace, who'd been away for years, wielded the family's power and money like it was only natural. The local police acted as her personal guard, and no one ever asked Grace to prove that she and her family needed that kind of assistance and attention.

When the handsome local minister

All in all, this went from being mildly interesting despite not being the sort of story I'd hoped to read, to being a completely cheesy mess that was almost painful to finish.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
Profile Image for Stephanie A..
2,278 reviews62 followers
November 14, 2018
Aside from the romance being super meh and unnecessary, this was basically everything I dreamed and wanted it to be. The beautiful, sprawling/spooky old Duluth mansion (with SECRET PASSAGEWAYS!) was described so exquisitely I could see myself there...and yet whether it was the present day or flashbacks to the past, it was always clearly described as a home, not just a piece of architectural beauty or a historic relic. I feel like you don't often get that sense when reading about grand/spooky old houses in books with that element of mystery.

I also went into this book so excited by the first sentence of its synopsis that I didn't read beyond that, which I think helped because then I was totally unspoiled for and absolutely delighted by each new twist and mystery.

This is the first audiobook I've ever listened to that wasn't read by a celebrity, and I was thoroughly impressed by the reader's talent, particularly in representing Irish accents. I switched over to paperback about 70% of the way through when my eagerness to find out what happened overwhelmed my patience, but now I kind of regret depriving myself of those last 3 discs, because it was such a fantastic sensory experience to have the story unwinding in my ears while I devoted my imagination to creating pictures on the backs of closed eyelids. That said, having both the book both on CD and in paperback (thank u local library) gave me two different angles of the house on their respective covers, which was great.

Overall, I had one of the most satisfying and enjoyable reading / listening experiences ever. The only reason I'm hesitant to give it 5 stars is that the ending kinda...threw itself off the rails / into left field, and wasn't quite what I was expecting. Or wanting.

Also, the last few pages of the epilogue seemed TOTALLY unnecessary -- I hate when scary books drop an Unsettling Cliffhanger that is just there to subvert expectations and make your stomach twist, with no intention of actually delivering on a sequel. Not that I'd want that particular sequel anyway.

Still, I recommended this without hesitation to my mom, and still recommend it to anyone else who enjoys books about historic family estates with a Mystery (or several) From The Past to be solved in the present. In fact, you know what, I'm changing my mind. This is one of the best reading experiences I had all year, and months later I'm still humming about it, and my rating should reflect that.
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