Friday Book Whimsy: The Unseen, by Katherine Webb

unseenAlmost nothing makes me happier than beginning to read a new novel, heavy with loads of pages, especially if it is British, romantic, takes place in a manor house, spans several generations, and involves a mystery. I love the bulky feel of it in my hands. I love the knowledge that I’m going to meet new people, some good and some evil. I love that it will probably take me places I’m not likely to be heading off to very soon. Yep. Give me a mysterious diary and a crazy woman in the attic, and I am a happy woman.

It is at this point, before I proceed any further, that I have a confession to make. I read almost exclusively these days on my Nook. I certainly wasn’t a fan when ereaders first were introduced. I tried to keep an open mind, but I simply love the feel of a book in my hand and the look of books on my shelf. I didn’t judge others, but for myself, I would continue to buy used paperbacks or get books from the library.

Over the course of the months, however, what I have come to find is that a small ereader is easier to hold with my arthritic hands and wrists than a heavy book. When I travel, taking the ereader allows me to bring along a plethora of books without having to carry an entire separate suitcase or give my husband a hernia carrying it. When I leave my house, I tuck the ereader in my purse and it is available to me when I have to wait for something, am riding light rail, stop for a bite to eat, and so forth.

So, having gotten that off my chest, let me tell you about a lovely manor mystery I recently read called The Unseen, by Katherine Webb. It has everything I love about a fine manor mystery except the manor. Instead, the story takes place largely in a vicarage in a small Berkshire village, jumping back from contemporary times to 1911, when the vicar and his wife actually lived there. The vicarage and church are no longer active.

Leah, a newspaper reporter, is shown a photo of a dead soldier, along with some rather confusing letters, and challenged to figure out who he is and what the letters mean. The author takes us back and forth in time as the truth is slowly revealed to us. Along the way, characters are introduced, and then truly revealed to us through their actions.

The story revolves around a phenomenon that apparently actually took place back in the early 20th century – belief in real-life fairies. That supernatural belief, along with a vicar who is interested in nature and the supernatural, a highly naïve wife, a mysterious woman, recently released from prison for fighting for women’s suffrage who comes to work as a housekeeper , and an equally mysterious stranger who is allegedly an expert on fairies provide the mystery that is pursued by the newspaper reporter.

As with Webb’s first book,The Legacy, I noted that the story moves somewhat slowly, but towards a satisfying conclusion that keep me reading even after I should have turned out the lights.

Spoiler alert: No crazy woman in the attic.