Monday, June 1, 2015
On a dark Kentucky night in 1952 exactly halfway between her fifteenth and sixteenth birthdays, Annie Holleran crosses into forbidden territory. Everyone knows Hollerans don’t go near Baines, not since Joseph Carl was buried two decades before, but, armed with a silver-handled flashlight, Annie runs through her family’s lavender fields toward the well on the Baines’ place. At the stroke of midnight, she gazes into the water in search of her future. Not finding what she had hoped for, she turns from the well and when the body she sees there in the moonlight is discovered come morning, Annie will have much to explain and a past to account for.
It was 1936, and there were seven Baine boys. That year, Annie’s aunt, Juna Crowley, with her black eyes and her long blond hair, came of age. Before Juna, Joseph Carl had been the best of all the Baine brothers. But then he looked into Juna’s eyes and they made him do things that cost innocent people their lives. Sheriff Irlene Fulkerson saw justice served—or did she?
As the lavender harvest approaches and she comes of age as Aunt Juna did in her own time, Annie’s dread mounts. Juna will come home now, to finish what she started. If Annie is to save herself, her family, and this small Kentucky town, she must prepare for Juna’s return, and the revelation of what really happened all those years ago. -- Dutton
I honestly don't know why it's taken me so long to read a novel by Lori Roy. She is an Edgar-Award winning author, and I do love literary mysteries. I guess it really is true that there are just too many books and too little time. I recently picked up her latest novel LET ME DIE IN HIS FOOTSTEPS, and I can definitely see what all of the fuss is about.
LET ME DIE IN HIS FOOTSTEPS is a fictionalized account about the last public hanging in the United States. It tells the story of two families who have some pretty dark secrets that have been passed down through the generations.
The novel begins in 1952 when Annie Holleran is right between her 15th and 16th birthdays. Local tradition dictates that girls look into a well to see the man they will marry. Annie has the know-how, an ability to see things clearer than everyone else (kind of like a clairvoyant!), that she inherited from her aunt Juna... who everyone in the town (including Annie) knows is actually her mother. When Annie and her sister decide to travel to a neighbor's property -- a place that is forbidden to them -- Annie discovers that Mrs. Baines, the matriarch of the family, is dead!
Needless to say, Annie has quite a bit to account for including why she was even on the Baines' property. She is also extremely worried that her real mother, Juna, will come back into town and cause trouble. Juna left town around sixteen years ago after one of the Baines' boys was hanged based on her accusations. Now that Mrs. Baines is gone, Annie believes that Juna can return. Annie believes that it's up to her to unearth what really took place sixteen years ago -- before Juna left town!
LET ME DIE IN HIS FOOTSTEPS is a beautifully written novel, and it's evident that Ms. Roy is a gifted writer. It's part coming-of-age, part mystery, and part Southern gothic -- a unique mix that just worked. Quite honestly, I picked up the book because of the mystery aspect, and I wasn't disappointed -- it was very well executed. But after reading this entire story, I think the coming-of-age and Southern gothic aspects were equally well done. This woman can write!!!
Ms. Roy chose to tell this story by going back and forth between 1952 when Annie discovers the dead body, and 1936 when Juna first wreaked havoc on this small town. Her ability to transition between the stories was outstanding, and I was extremely impressed with how well she brought the characters to life. In addition, she managed to create tension, albeit in a very quiet way; and the suspense in the story just kept building until the truth was revealed in the final scenes.
As you can tell, there were many things that I appreciated about LET ME DIE IN HIS FOOTSTEPS, but I especially enjoyed how she portrayed women and their relationships in this novel. It was clear that Ms. Roy understands females and their interactions with each other. There is no doubt that this story was dark and even made me a little uncomfortable to read, and I think the honest portrayal of these women made the story that much more real to me.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and have been really questioning myself as to why it took so long to read one of Ms. Roy's books. Needless to say, I plan to feature the other two as part of Mystery Mondays in the future. LET ME DIE IN HIS FOOTSTEPS is a wonderful novel, and I recommend it to fans of literary mysteries.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read. Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.