A contemporary whodunit with strong paranormal and gothic overtones by first-time author Marshall.
Still reeling from the murders of her beloved husband Steve and their 5-year-old son Stevie, Caroline Joanna “C.J.” Connor leaves Charleston, S.C., to relocate to Jacksonville, Fla. En route, she feels a strong compulsion to break for coffee near Elizabeth Island. Serena, the waitress in the diner where C.J. stops, convinces her to delay her job in Jacksonville to spend a week at Stockton House on nearby Stockton Island, giving her a coupon for a free week’s stay to sweeten the deal. At Stockton House, C.J. quickly becomes embroiled in the family drama looming over the beautiful former estate. Developers are eager to acquire the property and managers Mason Stockton and his twin sister Monica Torino are determined to eliminate any impediment to the sale, including the last acknowledged living daughter of the former owners. C.J. learns that she was not led to Stockton House by chance, but that she is more closely associated with the Stocktons than she ever dreamed possible. Assisted by otherworldly forces, C.J. protects herself, her allies and the house from those who would do them harm. The journals kept by matriarch Christina Stockton provide such shocking evidence of her evilness that C.J. seeks to protect the woman’s daughters from knowing the full extent of their mother’s cruelty. Christina is reminiscent of characters from 1980s evening TV dramas such as Dynasty and Dallas, with her overactive sex drive matched only by her lust for power and money. The unique twist of having ghosts as C.J.’s partners lends the novel some intrigue. However, a clever concept and well-developed plot are hampered by wooden dialogue and convoluted family relationships. Nonetheless, fans of macabre mysteries will find something to like in this book.
Will appeal to genre fans, but general readers may struggle with the stiff dialogue and elaborate family dynamics.