By the author of Entangled (2014), this supernatural thriller pits a writer against ghosts, witchcraft and worse while researching a wealthy family’s history.
Writer India Hills is just about broke. Luckily, her publisher has pointed her toward the Duvall-Richards family of Willow Creek, Missouri. Robert Duvall-Richards, charming owner of an Oriental imports business, has commissioned India to write a book about his family’s history—which stretches back to the mid-1800s. For her research, India has access to the old mayor’s mansion, a dilapidated Victorian structure with a cellar full of town records—and according to legend, the ghosts of deceased Duvall men; thanks to an old rivalry with local witches, a curse has supposedly bound their spirits in place. India finds the legends silly until one of the witches—or Wiccans, as they prefer—is killed. The writer interviews Wiccan Melissa Ferrier about the Duvall feud, and she explains that her religion involves healing and peaceful ties to the Earth, not grudges or violence. Melissa offers her a protective necklace, but India refuses. A fearsome ghostly encounter in the mansion cellar, however, makes her a believer. As the irresistible Robert and the lovely Melissa each draw India further into their worlds, the writer suspects that the renewed violence has a human perpetrator. Author Heiberger establishes a classically gothic premise in a fabulous locale, which sits “nestled in rolling hills and ridges at the junction of two rural roads.” India’s narrative treats readers to snippets of writerly optimism: “knowing you can delight, even move others with just the words from your mind.” Heiberger also sets up a love triangle when India confesses that Melissa is “Richards’ counterpart; the best female catch in the county.” Fleshing out the atmosphere are moments in which green witchcraft (a type of magic tied to the Earth that is focused on “nurturing and healing”) is explored and characters wonder how long a decapitated head lives. Yet the story’s second half feels overburdened by India’s neurotic thoughts about her romantic entanglements; and certain details are needlessly repeated. Still, a worthy supernatural whodunit.
A macabre thriller with a message of tolerance and respect for nature.