Despite some plotting and characterization challenges, The Fate of Mercy Alban is an engaging and entertaining read. The ideas that push the plot forward are unique and keep the reader guessing, mostly.
Throughout reading this, though, I thought that the author struggled with how much credit to give her audience. At times, the characters come up with explanations for what's happening that are so unreasonable, it feels contrived. And yet, even when I thought "Obviously, it's not A, it's B," it usually ended up being C. So why do the characters stick stubbornly to A?
They also at times seem to completely forget where they are and what's happening,which causes them to make other questionable decisions. For example, <spoiler> they finally find the manuscript that is expected to reveal the truth to everything that's happening. But then, they read it slowly, out loud, and have long re-cap conversations in between the chapters. And they leave it unread for most of the book. I understand that it would have totally disrupted the plot to have the characters so easily figure it all out, but what you would do? "Hey, this book should give all the answers we've been seeking! How about we skim through it, especially skipping to the end, to figure this out without endangering ourselves more?" "Nah, let's savor it, read it really slowly, and let things play out as they will." Really?
Also, why does the Protestant preacher go to bed with the woman he just met, who's not sure she's emotionally ready for a relationship, who has returned home after a 20+ year absence, whose mother has just died, and who is going through one of the most difficult, stressful, and frightening times of her life? Did the author think that we wouldn't believe a romantic relationship between two adults if they didn't have sex within the first two weeks of meeting each other? Why make him a preacher, then?</spoiler>
Even despite these complaints, though, there are some genuinely creepy moments throughout The Fate of Mercy Alban. And the plot is twisty enough that I was surprised even when I thought the characters were going out of their way to avoid the obvious conclusion. I see that this was the author's debut novel, and it reads like one. But if you like mysteries and creepy old houses, you'll find a lot to like here.
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