A Cherokee curse and a hunger for success wreak havoc in this ambitious supernatural tale.
Three seemingly unconnected episodes open this novel: a pioneer family’s gruesome death on a haunted plot of Georgia land; a surprise attack that injures young Ozzie’s imprisoned family; and ex–football star Blake Savage’s bitterly going about his daily food deliveries. Blake’s wife, Angelica, of Cherokee blood and faith, is suffering after a miscarriage, going so far as to bury their stillborn daughter on their expansive property. Told in alternating chapters among an array of characters, the plot escalates as Ozzie makes a bold escape from his captors and Blake’s food production for rich chef Nick Vegas’ secret dinner clubs takes on a dreadful air. What’s more, Ozzie’s captors, now on the hunt for Ozzie after his escape, apparently work for Blake. When two of the three captors go missing in the woods, including Jesse, who’s tormented by a sinister disembodied voice, Blake begins to worry that he’s in too deep with Nick’s veiled plans, but as media attention grows for the secret dinner clubs, it’s too late for Blake to back out. A local sheriff and a food safety officer join the ranks of narrators with chapter-length contributions, along with Angelica’s twin sister, Rose, and Hal, a friendly recluse who takes in Ozzie. The connection between Ozzie and Blake’s work is frustratingly opaque, until a few clues reveal Ozzie isn’t like the other characters at all. Nick’s nationwide supper clubs debut without a hitch, but a few hours later, a widespread epidemic is in full swing; all signs point to Nick, and there’s a satisfying amount of page-turning suspense as the media and authorities begin to jigsaw together how these supper clubs could’ve caused the epidemic. Things settle into an idyllic conclusion before a final loss marks the story’s conclusion, reminding readers of the powerful, cursed land that opened the novel. Grisly descriptions and thorough research lend credibility to the story, but its many narrators and constantly shifting points of view muddy the numerous plotlines. The linchpin of the story’s suspense—why Blake has kept Ozzie and his family captive—is more confusing than surprising, and at times, there’s an overreliance on dialogue. Readers will likely be more engaged in the cleverly rendered story of Nick’s deadly supper clubs than in the lingering Cherokee curse that bookends the novel.
Overdone in parts, but the bright spots of true suspense will satisfy readers looking for a grim, inventive thriller.