In this contemporary Southern gothic, a young artist returns home to Galveston, Texas, and uncovers a century’s worth of sordid secrets.
Clare hasn’t been back to Galveston since she was sent away at 14 to live with her grandmother. Now married (though she knows that won’t last long) and mourning the accidental death of her daughter, Clare is on the island to organize a photo exhibit for the historical society. But the novel, like Clare, is consumed with the past. Growing up on Galveston, an old pirate island with a reputation for dangerous charm, Clare lived in the historic Porterfield House, lovingly maintained by her unlovable father. In front of this house sits the Carraday Mansion, still the residence of the powerful Carraday family. Patriarch Will Carraday gave Clare her first camera as a child and is sponsoring the exhibition, asking Clare to rummage through the family’s personal archive. Clare splits her time between searching for Patrick Carraday, Will’s son and once upon a time the person who made her world, and the truth about Stella Carraday, the mysterious ancestor who allegedly died during the great flood, found naked and hanging from the chandelier. The truth about Patrick proves more elusive. As children and teenagers, they were inseparable, she a willing accomplice to all of his delinquent inclinations. But even the heir to the Carraday fortune can’t overcome some scandals, and after a suspicious fire kills a girl, Clare is sent to the Midwest and Patrick to Europe. Clare has nothing but questions: Why is Patrick avoiding her? How long have her mother and the married Will been having an affair? What really happened to Stella? For someone who prefers the distance of a camera to a conversation, Galveston may well keep her secrets. But then the atmospheric novel, framed by Clare’s reticence, explodes in a thunderclap that exposes all the old wounds: incest, murder and the secret of Clare’s paternity.
Black’s tempered pace and moody vulnerability creates a rich debut: both sensitive and sensational.