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I found this book absolutely adrenalizing and refreshing in its breaking from the mold of the formulaic, brain-numbing books of the genre. Oh, you know the ones, their authors are well-known and dependable... at writing pretty good stories that keep you reading on the plane and leave you the moment you chunk 'em in the airport garbage. If that's your bag, more power to ya, but you should not buy this book.
While the novel can lacerate with its sharp intensity, it requires some concentration [no formulas here] as the book transitions primarily between 3 time frames: history of the house and town in rural Hudson Valley New York, the family in the house and town, and the subject murder and thereafter. These flashbacks and glance-forwards could have been, at times, somewhat bit less jarring. And yet, maybe the author intended this as she savagely sketched a supercharged psychosis in unsettling, ungluing focus.
I'd recommend it for readers who like their suspense a bit Mensa.
17 of 19 people found this review helpful
Brundage begins with an enticing and eerie Epigraph:
"THIS is the Hale farm. Here is the old milking barn, the dark opening that says, Find me. This is the weathervane, the woodpile. Here is the house, noisy with stories....Always the farm sings for us, its soldiers and wives....Then there were others--there have been many--who have taken, who have stripped and pillaged....Whatever they could, they took. Leaving just the walls, the bare floors. The beating heart in the cellar."
She goes on:
"We wait. We are patient. We wait for news. We wait to be told. The wind is trying to tell us. The trees shift. It is the end of something; we can sense it. Soon we will know."
Later, "the house sat there grinning," the house seems defiant "dressed in police tape," curtains blow "ghostlike," the husband thinks he sees the form of his recently murdered wife at the door to their bedroom.
The menacing atmosphere, the suggestion of a consciousness in the house, the shadowy history, all evoke feelings of another place in literature where violent happenings have left their psychic tracings -- the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. Like a tease, the titles of chapters support the epigraph, portend something frightening: Takers; The Reality of the Unseen; The Mysteries of Nature; Things Heard and Seen; Behavioral Science; Invasive Procedures; The Shadow of Death...the most telling, I will advise you, is *Behavioral Science.* For all of the tantalizing bites in the direction of phantoms and a possessed house -- it is not to be, leaving a promising mystery abandoned and a well written character study of a psychopath it its place. You might even call this a psychological thriller.
To reveal more of the story or the questionable connections of some of the characters to the farm's past, would spoil the slow *revealing* of the story, however you wish to view it -- as a supernatural tale or a psychological thriller. I'll just warn that the thrills are more like the kiddie roller coaster. But that is not a reason to pass on this book; imagine if you were on that little coaster and noticed the screws were striped bare, pieces of the track missing...it's a matter of perspective. The chills are the real deal as author Brundage unravels George's glossy facade with every page. Often, through his own words, we see the true level of his psychopathy. George describes an artist and his paintings to his class:
"...he didn't paint what he saw, but what he remembered. There's a difference. He believed memory was a lens to the soul. It's not the details that matter -- the veins on a leaf, say, so much as the implied detail, such as the changing light, the wind, the lone peasant in the distance the sense that something else is going on, some deeper possibilitly....”
The book is very well written; the characters feel real and the traits of psychopathy are chillingly accurate; the plot keeps you in a tightening grip. I had two hefty issues with this book. 1- I was okay that the book was a bit of a bait and switch (supernatural for psychological quasi-thriller) because of the skillful writing, but felt the author needed to decide whether there was a supernatural element going on or not, tie in some very loose pieces instead of straddling the genres. There was a sense that the author was not ready to fully commit to her original arc. 2- This had to be the most poorly (worst, faulty, egregious) executed crime investigation ever -- seriously.
I'm left wondering -- though it may be clearer to other readers/listeners -- exactly who is the *we* in the epigraph, what soldiers, what looters? Were spirits, like those from the Overlook, reactivated with the inherent evil of George? Has the beating heart in the cellar added another victim to its rhythmic thumping, AND whose heart is it anyway? I hope you find out.
12 of 18 people found this review helpful