The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

The VanishingThe Vanishing (21 January 2014) by Wendy Webb

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would like to thank Hyperion/Hachette Publishers through NetGalley for my advance review copy of The Vanishing.
Before you read this novel, here’s what you need to know: in her acknowledgements, author Wendy Webb states, “I’m not trying to define a generation, or change the way you think about the world or your place in it. I just want to craft a good story that will delight you…and send some shivers up your spine along the way.”
In The Vanishing, Webb has succeeded at these goals. The Vanishing is a competently written, thoroughly delightful gothic thriller. It transports the reader gleefully into a world of ghosts, obsession, and romance, and ends with a satisfying and chilling twist.
The Vanishing tells the story of Julia Bishop, whose husband was recently murdered after it was discovered that he had swindled all their friends out of their life’s savings. Julia, who had been blissfully ignorant of her husband’s criminal pursuits, has been rejected by these friends, and hounded relentlessly by the media. She is about to lose her house in Chicago, and has no idea what she will do to survive in the coming weeks.
Into this bleak future, like a knight in shining armor, comes the mysterious aristocrat, Adrian Sinclair. He offers Julia the opportunity to come live at his manor house on the shore of Lake Superior, as a companion for his aging mother. Though this proposal is rather inexplicable, Julia is desperate, and takes Adrian up on his offer. In short order, she is whisked off to a new life in the gorgeous gothic estate of Havenwood. However, the splendor of Havenwood conceals a terrible secret. Julia soon comes to realize that Adrian’s motives for inviting her to his home may not be as innocent as they appear.
The Vanishing is a quick, well-constructed read, with a plot that never slows down. It’s also a lot of fun, because it contains all the classic elements of a gothic romance: an isolated, haunted manor, a handsome heir, violent ghosts, and all sorts of reveals and twists.
In terms of pure entertainment, it is a complete success. My only complaint is that, to some extent, it seems like Webb includes too much of a good thing in the novel. The supernatural elements are omnipresent; the ghosts singing and floating and bumping into Julia almost immediately upon her arrival at Havenwood. In the case of the supernatural, sometimes it is what you don’t see, rather than what you do, that makes things frightening. Sometimes a movement in the dark can seem much more terrifying than a howling specter careening through the halls. So the full-blast tone of the narrative, from the many ghosts, to the perfection of the manor, and the predictable handsomeness of Julia’s love interest, diminish the originality of the story. The Vanishing is less powerful because it contains every trope of the genre. In keeping with this, the novel lacks a unique voice. The writing, while clear and well-paced, is generic.
Still, with all this said, and given the goals that the author states regarding her writing, I cannot complain. The Vanishing may not be groundbreaking art. But on the other hand, there is a reason that the tropes of gothic horror are so popular. A shivery ghost story is an awful lot of fun, and in The Vanishing, Wendy Webb has accomplished just that.

View all my reviews

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