Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review - "The Tale of Halcyon Crane" by Wendy Webb

Hallie James gets an envelope in the mail from a lawyer representing her mother. Inside is a letter from her mother plus a notice that she has died recently. The only thing is, Hallie thought her mother died thirty years ago. Hallie's world and everything she has known are about to be turned upside down.

The Tale of Halcyon Crane is Wendy Webb's first novel, and it's a pretty good one. I'm not a big fan of ghost stories, mostly because the images stay in my head and keep me awake at night, but this book isn't heavy on the supernatural. It's definitely there, with Hallie seeing ghostly girls and having the ability to see into photographs and become part of the event being recorded, but it's not overwhelmingly mind-blowing. This is more a story of suspense: What happened to cause Hallie's dad to take her away from her home when she was five? What really childhood friend Julie to fall from the third-story window to her death? Why does Hallie keep seeing a girl in a white dress with a ribbon in her hair?

This is also a family saga. A visit to a healer--or witch, as the townspeople call her--opens Hannah's womb a century earlier, and certain abilities or "gifts" are then passed to her children and to their children, including Hallie. Each generation has tragedy visited upon it because of these gifts, and the shadows of those terrible events still echo in the house left to Hallie by her mother. The strange housekeeper Iris, as creepy as Mrs. Danvers from Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, is also the storyteller of this family, and it is her duty to explain to Hallie her own gift and how to use it. Naturally Iris isn't quite what she seems, but then Hallie comes to realize that several people on this Michigan island have secrets.

Halloween isn't too far off, and this is a good book to get you in that spooky mood, should you want to. It's rather tame as ghost stories go, so you don't have to worry about lots of blood or violence. The supernatural element is stronger than in Carol Goodman's books, but her fans will find something to like here as well. Make yourself a cup of something hot, curl up under a blanket, and enjoy the journey into another place.

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