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  • Phyllis H. Moore

Book Review: Secrets of Hallstead House

Amy Reade’s Secrets of Hallstead House is a mystery with interesting twists. It is set on islands in the Thousand Island archipelago. The Thousand Islands consist of over 1,800 islands, making up an archipelago in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River between Canada and the United States. Some of the islands are tiny, only big enough to shelter water fowl. Others are large enough for commerce and bustling towns. The one’s that caught my attention are the ones owned by millionaires who built houses and estates: grand houses and castles. These grand houses are the setting for Amy Reade’s novel.

The story is filled with twists and mystery. We want Macy Stoddard to help her employer, Alexis Hallstead, to recover from hip surgery and discover the causes of her husband and daughter’s deaths. These deaths were not recent, but Alexis is troubled by them and convinced they were more than what they appeared. Macy’s connection to the family is troubling to other residents of the house, Vali and Leland, the couple who have always provided housekeeping and caretaking for the estate, and visitors, Will and Stephan, Brandt and Giselle. They are all protective of Alexis, a kind recluse. Pete the boat pilot seems to be the only person happy to have Macy on the island, caring for Alexis. Macy is a likeable protagonist and the reader wants her to prevail. Although the story is interesting and keeps the reader’s attention, it wasn’t the main draw for me.

My hook is the setting. I liked reading Amy Reade’s descriptions of Summerplace, the house on Hallstead Island, Alexis’ estate. They prepared to winter at Solstice, Alex’s winter home on Pine Island. Macy toured Boldt Castle on Heart Island and attended church services at Singer Castle on Dark Island. The details of the boat rides between islands, the rocky paths leading to the structures and the interiors and exteriors of the buildings was enough to make me want to book a cruise to see these islands. There were opportunities for crackling fires, wine in the dining rooms and chilly nights on the balconies. I wanted to be there, and I will be one of these days.

I have a theory about these grand old places and others that we view on tours and as passersby. We want to see the life that took place inside and envision ourselves there. We enjoy looking at the furniture and accessories, imagining the people wandering the halls and sitting on the sofas. Thank you, Amy, for taking me to a new place and allowing me to imagine.

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