In this debut paranormal novel, a young woman becomes enmeshed in a murder mystery.
Justine Cook is no stranger to enigmas, having grown up with a daydreaming father who walked out shortly before her 12th birthday. But tracking him down 10 years later kicks up more uncertainty and weirdness than even she could have imagined. Having moved back to her hometown after college, Justine has gotten used to playing it safe and keeping her feet on the ground, in sharp contrast to the man who left her behind. But when she catches a glimpse of him in a newspaper photograph, something changes within her, and she finds herself thrust into the peculiar world of the village of Lantern Creek. Her family history aside, Justine ends up involved in a murder investigation, as the victim bears an uncanny resemblance to her, and she finds sparks flying between her and Sheriff’s Deputy Dylan Locke. But the inquiry may have more to do with Justine than she realized, as alongside clues about the crime, she discovers her father’s double life, including her half brother, Adam, and a supernatural destiny that binds them all together. The story’s hook is strong, and the pacing moves very quickly, getting from brief sketches of Webber, where Justine and her mom live, to Lantern Creek and the main action of the novel in a matter of pages. Unfortunately, this speed does leave behind a few overly telling or expository paragraphs, which are sometimes redundant with more evocative scenes or pieces of dialogue, as in an early section where Justine describes her love life. Still, there’s plenty to recommend in Kemp’s tale, from the varied intrigue to the standout secondary characters to the light tone, which still manages to present darker moments effectively. Occasionally, the plot can feel overly busy, glossing over Justine’s feelings, the facts of the mysteries, or the ghosts, visions, and other supernatural facets in an effort to balance these disparate elements. Nevertheless, the author delivers a bevy of good ideas, and readers will find a lot to love if they take the chance to look.
While it’s sometimes disorienting, this wild ride remains enjoyable and well worth the price of admission.