A Face at the Windowby Dennis McFarland
After sending their only daughter off to boarding school, Cookson Selway and his wife, Ellen, travel to London to escape their empty, echoing house. But their quiet hotel has guests other than those on the register, and the vacation turns into a journey not only to another city but to another time. As Selway is drawn into a series of mysterious encounters with a young girl who died in a fall from his hotel window sixty years earlier, he finds that the shadowy rooms and characters of her life become more real to him than those of his own. An escapist with an alcoholic history, he secretly relishes the chance to move from his lackluster reality into the high drama of the girl's past. But as he begins to do so, he jeopardizes his marriage and the lives of those around him, and the consequences of his escape are far greater than he could ever have imagined.
Cookson Selway travels for a month in London with his wife Ellen, a writer of mystery novels who wants to do location research. The couple book into the quaint Hotel Willerton, where all seems fine until Cook begins acting strangely, cursing in his sleep, waking up exhausted and reeking of whiskeyall signs of relapse into the depraved life of drugs and booze he'd lived earlier while making his millions as a drugged and dishonest restaurateur in Manhattan and before the purifying miracle of his daughter Jordie's birth (Jordie, now a teenager, is in boarding school back in Cambridge). As much as Ellen pleads, and as much as Cook swears he'll pull himself together, "The Strange Business at the Hotel Willerton" forms a spiral downwardthough a painfully slow one as hint after pseudo-Jamesian hint crawls by ("This wordy explanation will have to do. It's the only one I have") before the "ghosts" in the old hotel finally manifest themselves openly by sucking energy from the living Cook. By that time, the ghosts' tales of family murder and long-ago vileness will seem related only distantly to the sins of Cook's own reams-ago and dimly remembered life (his redneck father, one cause of early Cookian guilt, murdered a black man and got off easy), and what takes over instead of deepening character are the mechanics of how ghosts function and what they do. "'I'm very tired,' " one of them says, "'This takes a toll, you know, all this emerging. It's a great pleasure in its own way, but it does take a toll.' "
Many will concur at the finish of this tiresome book that aimed high, but got paled out, then hit low.
- Crown Publishing Group
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- 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)
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