The End of Temperance Dare: A Novel – Wendy Webb, 2017.
Alone in the world and suffering PTSD from her years as crime reporter, Eleanor Harper is excited to become the new director of Cliffside, a coveted artists’ retreat overlooking the brooding waters of Lake Superior.
Miss Penny, the exiting director and last of the Dare family who once operated Cliffside as a TB sanatorium, briefs Eleanor on her new role and then promptly kills herself. Eleanor is left with a token staff in an empty house, an ominous suicide note, and a mystery that is soon to become a nightmare.
Eleanor’s anxiety increases as she experiences disturbing unnatural phenomena in the house and on the grounds. When the artistic fellows arrive, the alarming incidents escalate. Eleanor discovers that each of the fellows – some knowingly, some unknowingly – holds a clue to a very dark secret.
The End of Temperance Dare is a nicely-plotted blend of gothic horror and country house mystery woven together with a pleasant thread of romance. All of the characters, from Eleanor to young Dr. Nate and the proper housekeeper Harriet, are well-drawn and relatable and just right for their parts in this small cast supernatural drama.
Webb does a skillful job deepening the reader’s tension as danger increases for the household. Using classic elements of a good haunted house story – storms, washed out roads, disembodied children’s voices, bumps in the night, and creepy dolls to list a few – Webb brings the story to an unexpected and genuinely scary climax. This is a delicious read to curl up with on a stormy evening.