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ISABELLA MOON by Laura Benedict


by Laura Benedict

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-345-49767-3
Publisher: Ballantine

A debut novel about a small town’s murderous secrets and the woman who leads to their unraveling.

Kate Russell abandoned her past to start anew in idyllic Carystown. Just when she thinks she’s escaped, the ghost of Isabella Moon, a girl whose murder two years earlier remains unsolved, brings Kate to Isabella’s grave. The discovery leads Kate deep into Carystown’s secrets, while her own dangerous past threatens to overtake her. The otherworldly elements, namely Isabella’s ghost, make for a poorly told campfire tale. The dead-of-the-night ghost scenes are clichéd, lacking the thrill and chill of a successful murder mystery. As a whole, the novel is more plot-driven than character-driven, and even then it’s no page-turner until another, more brutal murder occurs—this time involving someone close to Kate. Benedict tackles the gruesome and the disturbing without hesitation; however, Kate never takes shape, morphing from scared and meek to strong and vengeful without ever developing a personality. The most engaging scenes are Kate’s flashbacks that unfold alongside the present story as both become increasingly sordid. Throughout, the text fails to provide motivation for Kate’s actions, damaging the story’s credibility. The same frustration occurs with Sheriff Bill Delaney. Presented as a major figure, he battles feelings of lust for and suspicion of Kate, as well as pressures to unravel the town’s web of sex, drugs and violence. But insight into his character is erratic and the Kate-Sheriff relationship is neglected. Stock characters make up the rest of the ensemble: the wealthy, aging matriarch and her spoiled son, the drug-and-sex-addicted vixen, the wise, retired schoolteacher, the irreverent hippie, etc. The various ways in which they are involved becomes tiresome, and the conclusion lacks pay off.

Full of ghosts and gore, sure, but only a good read for the gullible.