Tale of Halcyon Crane|Wendy Webb
Tale of Halcyon Crane
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A young woman travels alone to a remote island to uncover a past she never knew was hers in this thrilling modern ghost story

When a mysterious letter lands in Hallie James's mailbox, her life is upended. Hallie was raised by her loving father, having been told her mother died in a fire decades earlier. But it turns out that her mother, Madlyn, was alive until very recently. Why would Hallie's father have taken her away from Madlyn? What really happened to her family thirty years ago?

In search of answers, Hallie travels to the place where her mother lived, a remote island in the middle of the Great Lakes. The stiff islanders fix her first with icy stares and then unabashed amazement as they recognize why she looks so familiar, and Hallie quickly realizes her family's dark secrets are enmeshed in the history of this strange place. But not everyone greets her with such a chilly reception--a coffee-shop owner and the family's lawyer both warm to Hallie, and the possibility of romance blooms. And then there's the grand Victorian house bequeathed to her--maybe it's the eerie atmosphere or maybe it's the prim, elderly maid who used to work for her mother, but Hallie just can't shake the feeling that strange things are starting to happen . . .

In The Tale of Halcyon Crane, Wendy Webb has created a haunting story full of delicious thrills, vibrant characters, and family secrets.


  • ISBN-13: 9780805091403
  • ISBN-10: 0805091408
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • Publish Date: March 2010
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.95 pounds
  • Page Count: 352

One woman’s long strange trip in search of her true identity

There is a genre of fiction that might well be called “tourism horror.” In such stories, the protagonist travels to a breathtakingly attractive destination, where all hell breaks loose. The masterpieces of the genre are surely Dracula (oh, Transylvania!) and The Shining (talk about a “last resort” hotel). Enter debut novelist Wendy Webb, who gives both Bram Stoker and Stephen King a run for their travel budget, inventing an island in the Great Lakes that can’t be matched for pristine natural beauty, richness of history, touristic amenities . . . and sheer supernatural terror.


One reason why The Tale of Halcyon Crane deserves a place in the canon of tourism horror is its initial twist of the emotional knife: the traumatic discovery that forces our heroine, Hallie James, to make her journey to Great Manitou Island. Ghosts, violent death, witches—none of these terrible presences on the island hold a frightful candle to the psychological devastation at the outset of the novel, when Hallie finds out that she is not the person she thought she was—and neither is her father, nor her mother, nor anything she has ever believed about her family. This internal horror outdistances the merely external threats imposed by Stoker and King.


The emotional impact of the island’s heart of darkness on Webb’s heroine also stands in complete contrast to the way things usually go in the genre. In Dracula and The Shining (or Heart of Darkness, for that matter), the hero or heroine is possessed by the horror, is undone by it and made monstrous. But in The Tale of Halcyon Crane, Hallie James confronts the horror and takes possession of herself, entering into her authentic identity, with all its difficulties intact.


The novel’s affirmative spirit may not be to the taste of diehard horror fans, but it certainly gives a more generous account of how the spirit of a beautiful place can complexly affect a human being, for both good and ill. Wendy Webb is a professional journalist, first and foremost. Like those journalistic masters Dickens and Twain before her, she knows that to write good travel prose, you must give a vivid account of both the demons you find along the way and the demons you bring along with you. That way, the reader always feels right at home. 


Michael Alec Rose is a composer who teaches at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.