The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb is a terrific haunted house novel rife with family secrets and unexplained events.
Set on the shores of Lake Superior, the story unfolds in the mansion built by the Alban family at the turn of the 20th century, after they made their fortune in shipping.
The local university is giving tours of the home now, but the Alban family still lives there and continues to wield influence in the community.
When Grace Alban’s mother, Adele, dies, Grace is forced to return to the family home for the first time since the tragic death of her father 20 years earlier.
Her daughter Amity has visited almost every summer, but Grace has stayed away, hiding from painful memories. Settling her mother’s estate, Grace finds a packet of letters that challenges everything she knew about her family’s history.
Grace’s search for the truth about her family leads her through hidden passageways into secret vaults at the church and seems to awaken ghosts that have been living in the walls of this old house since Aunt Mercy died and left her twin sister Faith behind in 1935. Even Adele’s death due to a heart problem suddenly doesn’t seem so ordinary, and Grace begins to wonder if there was something supernatural at work the day her mother died.
Wendy Webb is a new author. This is only her second published novel, and it does have a few weaknesses, like an overload of plot twists that she has trouble wrapping up. But still she is a great storyteller and kept me interested up to the very last page.
Like most good books I read, this one reminded me of some others I have recommended to friends. If you love eerie novels about haunted houses try The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. If family secrets and finding the truth are more your interest I highly recommend Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff.
About Jen McCormack
Jen McCormack is the director of the Nashua Public Library. Previously she was director of the Tewksbury (Mass.) Public Library and assistant director and reference librarian at the Amesbury (Mass.) Public Library. She studied history at UNH and earned her master's in library and information science from Simmons College.