In LeMay’s quirky debut, a teenager confronts the mysteries surrounding the Renaissance Faire run by his family.
Five years ago, tragedy struck the Mad Brothers Renaissance Faire. Ginger, a beloved Bengal tiger, fatally mauled Matt Madison, the fair’s owner. Since then, Matt’s 17-year-old son, Simon, has craved nothing but solitude in quaint Freemont, S.C, where his life is anything but easy: His mother is mentally ill, his grandfather is wheelchair-bound, and he hates the family business. Tommy, a hardworking friend of Simon’s father, runs the faire himself. Only the arrival of teen psychic Amanda Moon is able to shake Simon from his detachment. Charming, ethereal and living next door in his father’s old trailer, Amanda also believes that someone used Ginger to murder Matt. Enraged by this, Simon seeks out Tommy's tranquil company. The older man tells Simon that he will inherit the faire upon turning 18 if he’s willing to work the grounds part-time; if not, ownership goes to his cousin Aaron, an irresponsible playboy. Further complicating Simon’s life are Amanda’s visions of crosses, the pesky school principal, Dr. Danvers, and the mutilated body of a fellow student found in the local swamp. Simon can’t seem to escape any of it; however, after helping Amanda find the first of three engraved crosses, he no longer wants to. He commits to discovering the truth, although LeMay, a crafty, attentive writer, buries it deeply. The melancholy world quickly surrounds the reader, baiting the imagination with beautiful moments, such as Simon dreaming of Ginger: “Just as she was within arm’s reach, she exploded into a thousand butterflies and fluttered away in as many directions.” Equally memorable are passages highlighting Simon’s transformation from teen to young man: “One minute I was hollow and meandering and the next minute I was filled and directed.” The novel’s first third, which draws several fascinating character portraits, is especially enchanting. But once there’s a fresh murder to solve, LeMay’s writing grows tangled with long phone calls and car rides, and plot points sometimes mix with extraneous detail, creating a bog. By the end, though, LeMay cuts through it all for a satisfying finale.
A sometimes cloudy but uncanny mystery, filled with revelations that dazzle like summer lightning.