Grace Alban has spent more than twenty years avoiding her childhood home, the stately Alban House on the shores of Lake Superior, for reasons she would rather forget. But when her mother’s unexpected death brings Grace and her teenage daughter back, she finds more is 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. Her mother intended 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? Grace soon realizes her family secrets tangle and twist as darkly as the mansion’s secret passages.
The blurb by Phillip Margolin on the front cover says "A perfect read for a dark and stormy night." I read a large portion of this on a sunny porch swing in late afternoon, but it was still a near-perfect read. I'm a sucker for a catchy title and cool cover art - and a gothic mystery never hurts - so I ordered this book from Doubleday Book Club without knowing anything about it. I was not disappointed. The mystery is revealed in small increments, without a lot of pointless restating of facts (a technique that regular readers know drives me bonky), and even though I suspicioned one factor of the story far in advance, the plot then took a twist I certainly hadn't predicted for a very satisfying, if unnerving, ending.
I may help that I have not read Ms. Webb's first book, The Tale of Halcyon Crane, as several reviewers felt her second book fell short in comparison. If they are correct that this story seems lackluster in comparison to the first, I'm definitely picking up The Tale of Halcyon Crane on my next library run. The Fate of Mercy Alban will most likely make my Best Reads list for 2013.