In Matz’s (Help! Get Me Out of This Funk, 2010) novel, a young widow moves to Washington state and becomes embroiled in an odd mystery.
During a 2011 Joplin, Mo., tornado, Carter loses her parents and her husband, Ethan. Grief-stricken, she relocates to Tacoma, Wash., to be near her grandmother and her cousin Stacey Hall. “Man-hungry” Stacey has always flitted from one guy to the next, often driving them away with her neediness. After Stacey meets a group of elderly ladies at their south Seattle home, she goes on to take a female lover. Carter, believing Stacey’s behavior to be out of character, accompanies her to meet the old women. She notes that the ladies serve their guests wine and strange, spicy meatloaf and, later, escort their guests to the rear of the house for unknown reasons. Soon after this visit, Stacey vanishes; her house is littered with dirt, blood and mud, reminiscent of a crime scene. In Stacey’s fridge, Carter finds some of the mysterious meatloaf; later, she finds it in her own home. Concurrently, Carter develops a strong sexual attraction to a policeman named Connor, who helps her search for Stacey; they find out that her cousin’s disappearance may be related to local legends about erupting volcanoes. The story can be endearingly wacky at times, with its crazy quilt of romance and supernatural elements and moments of humor; at one point, for example, Carter slowly but surely turns the color of pumpkin pie. The novel also manages to generate some occasional suspense, but it struggles with an improbable plot and repetitive prose. In the end, readers may find that the suspense eventually devolves into frustration, as Carter’s encounters with dirt, mud and spicy meat become routine.
An uneven supernatural romance/mystery.