Trent, a poet, turns her pen to literary horror in this story centering on a community with a very dark soul.
Emily has nothing. Her family is dead and gone, her boyfriend is a cheating nonachiever, and her job is taking her nowhere. So when a long-lost great aunt dies and leaves Emily the home she owned in Heartshorne, Oklahoma, she doesn’t think twice. Emily dumps the boyfriend, then packs up and leaves for her late mother’s birthplace. When she arrives, she finds that the small house stands near Echo Lake, a man-made body of water that holds more than one terrible secret. She also discovers that her Aunt Fran didn’t pass away peacefully in her bed. Instead, Fran had her throat slit in the living room of the home she left to Emily. Although disturbed by the news, Emily feels out of options. She doesn’t have enough money to leave, so she stays and tries to fit into the community. First she meets the pastor of a local church and finds out that there have been several unexplained murders in the area, as well as the recent disappearance of a set of twins. But things don’t start looking up until she meets Jonathan, who runs a head shop in nearby Keno. Together, the two of them dig into the past that Emily’s mother, Connie, tried so hard to obliterate when she left the town behind. Trent’s years as a poet serve her well in this heavily atmospheric novel, which deftly conjures up both evil and the small town’s complicit reluctance to face its past. But in her role as a novelist, Trent’s first effort stands flawed; in addition to the needless stylistic quirk of omitting quotation marks that indicate dialogue, she fails to keep her story straight, changing important details from one page to the next.
Beautiful language doesn’t make up for the inconsistencies that permeate this first novel.