Wild and wooly-headed thriller in which a settled family man confronts his homicidal first love, who is herself dead and buried.
Huh? Well, it happens this way in the latest Iles (Dead Sleep, 2001, etc.). While a student at Ole Miss, John Waters falls overwhelmingly in love with Mallory Gray Candler, and she with him. The drop-dead gorgeous Mallory has a dark side to her, however, which John cottons onto the second time she tries to kill him. Temperamentally unsuited, they part. A few years later, unlucky Mallory is raped and murdered. Or so the world thinks. In actuality, Mallory, in a way incomprehensible to her (readers may also be puzzled), manages a “soul transmigration,” the first of several en route to her ultimate destination: John. So one bright afternoon in Natchez, there’s drop-dead gorgeous Eve Sumner observing John Waters as he coaches his seven-year-old daughter’s soccer team. Eyes meet, hers the “eyes that know the souls of men.” Soon enough, she’s rattling off secrets only Mallory could have been party to. Shortly after, Eve tells John she is Mallory—that is to say, Mallory in an Eve package. Naturally, John resists so fanciful a notion, but Mallory-Eve knows too much minutiae to be doubted. Belief first, then terror as John comes to understand the convoluted wickedness of her grand plan. What mind-over-matter Mallory intends is resumption of her interrupted existence as John’s soulmate—no soul-transmigration too grotesque to contemplate. “Get out of my wife,” hisses frantic John at his tormenter. But she schemes, manipulates, and murders, eventually thwarted only when she encounters a mind as tenacious as hers.
As one absurdist explanation follows another far-fetched plot twist, characters repeatedly tell each other to “keep an open mind.” Readers so inclined might find a reward scattered here and there.