The Vanishing – Wendy Webb

The Shining is the scariest ‘haunted house’ novel I’ve ever read. King knows how to make things go bump in the night. Wendy Webb, not so much.

The Vanishing is the story of Julia Bishop. Her husband, Jeremy, has recently blown his brains out after being caught with his hand in other people’s cookie jars. Julia tells us several times that Jeremy is Chicago’s version of Bernie Madoff. Anyway, after her husband’s suicide, Julia is left penniless, friendless and possibly on her way to jail.

Enter Adrian Sinclair. He has a too-good-to-be-true offer. Come to Havenwood, an estate deep in the Wisconsin forest and be a companion to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, world-famous horror writer, who has been presumed dead for the past decade. If the gig doesn’t suit, Adrian will help Julia create a new identity and give her enough cash to start over.

Havenwood was massive, with turrets and parapets and stained glass windows and balconies and chimneys. The house was surrounded by outbuildings and delicately manicured gardens through which a river flowed. Not far from the house, I noticed a lake – not Lake Superior, but a smaller inland lake.

Desperate to escape her circumstances, Julia accepts Adrian’s offer and heads to the middle of nowhere, where things start to get immediately creepy. (Without the actually creepy part.)

Havenwood is so massive, Julia is constantly getting lost. Mrs. Sinclair, who often sports velour tracksuits and calls people “piglet”, hardly seems in need of a companion. Although her day is structured, Julia has a lot of free time. Then there’s Drew McCullough, handsome Scottish, I don’t know, ranch hand? In-house vet? The house is also host to a variety of ghosts because, you know, isolated mansion in the middle of the woods.

There’s a reason Julia has been selected for this cushy gig, but I won’t spoil it for you. Some might call this a slow burn; I’d just call it a bore.

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