By Cynthia Bujnicki
Some strange is happening in the small town of Pale Harbor. Whispers of witchcraft haunt the town, tarnishing the name of Sophronia Carver, isolating her from the village. Blamed for the death of her husband, Sophronia keeps to herself, until Gabriel Stone enters with a hidden past like herself. Drawn together by macabre crimes inspired by the work of Edgar Allen Poe, the two seek answers before they succumb to a dire fate fit for one of Poe’s poems.
Hester Fox does it again with this mesmerizing and spooky novel, perfect for the fall and Halloween holiday. The Widow of Pale Harbor is a thrilling and riveting novel that opens with an ominous tone that carries throughout the novel until the very end, keeping the reader at the edge. In this little town off the harbor, Fox does a brilliant job creating a spooky atmosphere with the description of the fog, rolling hills, and landscape that submerges the reader in the world.
The additional element of combining Edgar Allan Poe’s work into the piece to haunt the characters was well executed. Fox brings each selected piece to life with a literal interpretation, allowing the reader to see the unimaginative mind of the villain who is using the murders to taunt and haunt the protagonist. It is not apparent at first, but for readers who are fans of Poe’s work and familiar with his stories, they will be able to see the connection between the acts of crime and the stories. While literal, the allusions to the stories bring about a deeper meaning to the characters. It highlights the spook factor for the reader and raises the tension between the characters.
Along with the tension, the pacing is fantastic. The Widow of Pale Harbor is a story that relies on its even pacing to keep the tension engaging, and Fox has done that exceptionally well. Fox ensures that the character dynamics grow throughout the novel. Their dynamics shift and grow in realistic ways as the story progresses, evolving their relationships. The relationships help the characters see past the tragedies of their respective pasts and grow beyond them. It is realistic, and the way the story evolves keeps the narrative and plot grounded, working to make it even more compelling. (★★★★☆)