In Epperson’s thriller, a water-company repairman discovers a woman’s dead body and soon finds himself a target.
Claude Pettijohn, while avoiding falling debris and a giant bear, runs his Jeep off the road near an unmarked grave. Later, after leaving the crash site, he hears ghostly cries for help, and returns to the scene with a fiber scope. He finds a coffin, complete with corpse, and the diary of a woman named Annabelle Thursby. He soon finds that none of the locals want to answer questions about Bristwhistle, the estate where the buried body resides. The repairman spends his free time reading snippets of Annabelle’s diary, which emphasize her hatred of Justin Bristwhistle, a devious man who was interested in her family’s property. After Claude’s wife and dog are murdered, he suspects that the name Bristwhistle is somehow involved. Epperson’s novel at first seems to embrace supernatural elements, but it soon becomes a mystery linked to a century-old murder. Claude’s relationship with his wife, Trudy, is initially hard to digest—he claims he’s being “nagged to death” and admits that his wife has occasionally made him so angry that he can understand the impulse to murder (though he stresses he would never commit such an act). But after she’s killed, it’s evident that he misses her, and the diary fuels his drive for retribution. Epperson rounds out his story with scenes that heighten the mystery, including an accident that likely wasn’t accidental. There’s also a surprising amount of sardonic humor; at one point, Claude notes a pain in his jaw brought on by a smile, and later, he apologizes to the reader for a “long story not short.”
A swiftly moving thriller that thrives more on suspense than mystery.