The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen by Katherine Howe is high on promise, but stumbles when it comes to delivery. I grant that this is a ghost story and my criteria for the genre is very high. For tension and general creepiness I leaned toward the The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and for terror and horror there is no equal to Ghost Story by Peter Straub. So with these two as my guide, the pace and telling of The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen comes about as a strong premise with weak execution.
While helping out a classmate, aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman is shooting a film during a seance in the East Village in New York. Here through the lense he spots a beautiful girl dressed in a turn of the century dress. He is immediately drawn to this beautiful young woman, but when he tries to speak with her later on, she disappears. When Wes finds her again, she is strange and distracted. As he spends more time with her he begins to notice different aspects about her character, the most alarming is that it seems that he is one of the few people that can actually see her. Her name is Annie and she has been dead for over a hundred years.
Annie van Sinderen is caught in a loop. From her time to the present. She continually flips back and forth. In her time the Erie canal is just being created and her father is prominent in its execution. But she also learns that there are forces that do not want this canal made. Anarchists who threaten her father and her family with death. But what has Annie flipping back and forth is a ring, given to her by her paramour, who happens to be one of the Anarchists who wants to kill her family. Wes quickly falls for Annie and is determined to help her find the ring, though he doesn’t understand its meaning.
What is incredible and hard to understand about this tale is that the whole point of Annie’s foray into the future is to find the ring, but as time passes its importance just doesn’t make sense. She comes back for a ring, from a boyfriend she is in love with, but has no issue sleeping with Wes and falling for him. As much as she can sleep with him. Then there is the whole point of the death of her family, which for her grand ideals of social reformation, she not only seems to accept but plays a hand in. Her parents are greedy and rich and therefore deserve to burn to death on a barge. So do her little sister and little brother because they are rich and spoiled and annoying. Not like her boyfriend who works hard for his meager wages.
Then there is Wes, a horribly geeky kind of guy who stumbles his way through speaking with the opposite sex, whether they be dead or alive. But now finds himself with the attention of two women, girls actually, who find him irresistible and by the way, they happen to be related to one another. Granted one is dead and the other is alive and they are separated by over a hundred years, but hey, a date is a date.
There are supporting cast, but you could have cut them out of any other book and pasted them in. Socialite mother who only cares about her riches and standing. Business minded father who only cares about money. Best friend and roommate who works in upscale boutique and knows all about dressing girls because, you know, he’s gay.
The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen is a good premise but poorly executed in storytelling and character development. The moral of this tale is pretty simple, if you make money and are rich you are evil and need to die. You and your whole family and the person who should have a hand in killing you is your own child. Because there is a hunky hard working boyfriend or a geeky filmmaker in the future and well, because you’re rich.
I have read several of Katherine Howe’s books and each one has digressed in story and plot and perhaps…this is simply where I need to cut the cord.