Something completely different—meaning surprisingly familiar—from Southern noir specialist Wiley: a revenge tragedy with strong intimations of the Oresteia.
Body-parts procurement specialist Oren, whom an earlier generation would have called a resurrectionist, has come to North Florida’s Black Hammock Island looking for revenge. Though he’s left his actress girlfriend, Carol, behind in a local hotel, he’s not alone; his gigantic friend Paul is with him, along with Paul’s three fearsome dogs and two human helpers, Jimmy and Robert. For nearly a generation, Oren’s been driven by a thirst to avenge his father, tormented Vietnam veteran Amon, who, Kay Jakobson told Detective Daniel Turner (Second Skin, 2015, etc.), disappeared one day without a trace. Turner’s never bought that story, and now it seems about to blow up in Kay’s face. But not right away. Pretending he’s a fan who wants to know more about the jangled self-portraits that have made Kay’s reputation, Oren worms his way into the house she shares with Walter, her violence-prone lover, and her children, Lexi and Cristofer, who barely knew their brother as infants. Bad things begin to happen. Kay wakes up to find all her chickens dead; a fire destroys her studio and the paintings inside; her neighbor, ancient civil rights activist Lane Charles, strikes an alliance with the interlopers. Oren tells everyone but his sister, who shares the narration with him in alternate chapters, that he doesn’t have anything to do with the intruders; the time it takes her and Walter to seriously question his bland assurances is only the most obvious sign of the ritualistic quality of the tale.
Neither as scary nor as suspenseful as most of Wiley’s Florida gothics but harrowing in its own peculiar way, even if it poses no threat to its Aeschylean model.