Spooky mansion? Check.
Secret passages? Check.
Dark and stormy nights? Haunting family secrets? Creepy characters? Check, check, check.
This second novel by Minnesota Book Award-winning writer Wendy Webb has all the elements of a downright haunting story — and it is. But there's also romance along the way to provide relief.
When Grace Alban's mother dies, she returns to her childhood home on Lake Superior to tend to the funeral and other chores. It's been more than 20 years since she has visited, although her teenage daughter, Amity, has spent time there every summer.
The home — a castle, really — might bring to mind a Minnesota landmark, Duluth's Glensheen mansion: "The redbrick façade rising three stories tall, the parapets jutting out from the roof, the enormous stone patio running the entire length of the house facing the lake, the stairs down to the gardens that framed the property … "
Grace feels the spirits of long-gone family members over her shoulder at every turn, and she's disturbed to learn that her mother's death came under mysterious circumstances. Longtime housekeeper Jane seems to be spooked, and chauffeur Carter clearly is hiding something.
When the spirit of Grace's dead father visits to warn that danger is lurking, Grace convinces herself it was only a dream. But was it? Is there truly an Alban family curse that threatens Grace and Amity?
Long-held family secrets tumble out at every turn. Grace has to deal with more than her mother's death as her family's history comes crashing down around her.
Webb's debut novel, "The Tale of Halcyon Crane," won the 2011 Minnesota Book Award for genre fiction, and she has another great novel here. Be prepared to be scared — and entertained.
Judy Romanowich Smith is a designer and copy editor at the Star Tribune.