September 19, 2016 by kitmoss
WAGES OF SIN by Alex Beecroft
From anthology THE MYSTERIOUS
When Charles comes stumbling home drunk, he knows he must be imagining the mysterious and frightening fog that engulfs him, but when he learns that his father has just died in perculiar circumstances, he’s not so sure. The old man is found in his bed, seemingly having drowned in his own vomit, but what is eerier is the woman’s handprint on his cheek. Charles’s brother and sister, when he joins them, object to a guest’s presence at the breakfast table, a neighbor named Jasper who tells tales of hauntings and malevolent spirits in the house. Jasper enlists Charles to witness the phenomena. When his brother’s consumptive wife has a visitation from a vengeful apparition and Charles hears a baby’s wailing, it starts getting harder to deny it. Something wicked this way has come. The trick is to figure out if the threat is wordly, otherworldly, or both. Will Charles find in Jasper not only an ally but a lover?
Alex Beecroft is an entertaining and skillful storyteller whose Age of Sail historical novels are only marched by her flights of fantasy. She sets the tone of unseen threat immediately, communicates Charles’s timidity and apprehension, and the blindess of his family members so well the reader is drawn in. The character of Jasper starts out as a sort of ill-meaning charlatan but slowly gains both Charles’s and the readers respect. For once a historical novel has a hopeful ending for the two lovers, for which this reader was grateful.