My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm writing this in October when the cooler weather and longer nights have turned my mind to thoughts of good ghost stories. Most readers in the same state would find The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb to be an excellent choice. The book is the story of Hallie James, a recently divorced woman in her early thirties, who receives a letter from a lawyer representing her long lost mother’s estate, along with a note from the mother she hasn’t seen since she was five years old. Hallie learns her name is actually Halcyon Crane. Her father faked her death and took her away from her mother for unknown reasons. Her father has Alzheimer’s and is able to confirm the contents of the letter, but unable to explain further before dying. Hallie has lost both the mother she didn’t know and the father who raised her within a short period of time. She has also inherited a substantial estate and is able to quit her job to go to the island in the Great Lakes where she spent the first five years of her life.
There were a few too many coincidences in the novel and choices by Webb that were too easy. For example there is a character mentioned who provided a means for Hallie’s father to establish a new identity. No one ever knew why, but the man disappeared so he couldn’t be questioned. But the plot is intricate and interesting. I loved the setting. Webb put the story on a fictional island that is similar to Mackinac Island. The phones are all land lines because there is no cell coverage. And since most motor vehicles are banned, people get around in horse drawn carriages. Much of the story is about Hallie’s ancestors, so placing it on an island that hasn’t changed over the years is perfect.
One minor aspect of the story I liked was Webb’s choice to have Hallie’s first marriage break up because her ex is gay. I have a friend who was in a similar situation many years ago. He’s long since gotten over the trauma, but at the time he took it very hard. It was as if he felt he wasn’t good enough sexually or he couldn’t love his wife enough to keep her straight. Our understanding of gay issues has grown over the years, so now a character like Hallie James can have an ex who is her good friend and wants to hear about her relationships. Hallie’s divorce wasn’t anyone’s fault. I like that.
The Tale of Halcyon Crane isn’t as scary as some ghost stories, but it is fun, intricate, and at times quite beautiful.
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