Friday, July 11, 2014

"Raven Rock" by Mignon F. Ballard

Published:  1986
Setting:  Modern Day

I found it in the kitchen.  It was propped against the sugar bowl on the enamel table- the group picture of my mother's I had lost at Morgan's cabin.  My first thought was that Morgan had returned it, until I saw the red circle of ink drawn around my mother's face and the paper with the message beside it:

I know who you are.
-The Chuckler-

The note was complete with a childish picture of a clown's face.

My first impulse was to run...Was this someone's idea of a joke?  And how did they get in?  I tried the back door.  It was unlocked!  Had I forgotten to lock it?  Possibly.  I had been in a hurry to leave, and there was nothing valuable in the cottage, nothing anyone would want to steal.

The thought of being alone in that house weighed me down fear.  I felt heavy-limbed, slow-witted.  My brain refused to function.  The Chuckler, or whoever had returned the picture, could still be hiding in one of the rooms upstairs, waiting for me!

After the unexpected death of her foster mother, Henrietta Meredith learns that her real mother abandoned her 23 years earlier with the promise of returning.  Instead she disappeared forever.  But Henrietta is hell-bent on finding out what happened to her real mother, and her search leads her into the dark secrets of a small mountain town in North Carolina.  A town where her young mother once lived and thrived.

There, Henrietta makes friends with the same people who befriended her mother years ago.  She even finds a job at the local newspaper where she can finally put her degree in journalism to good use.  Before long she's even found a love interest.  Eventually Essie, owner of a local boarding house, offers to rent Henrietta her log cabin, Honeysuckle Cottage, the same house her own mother shared with roommates before mysteriously disappearing.  And she does so without ever disclosing her true identity.

But as Henrietta delves into the secrets that veil the disappearance of her mother, she finds herself dead center of a controversial news story, the story of a serial killer...a serial killer who was said to have been convicted and died seven years prior...but if he's dead, how's he stalking her now?  And what does that have to do with a group picture of her mother, each person in the picture a victim of 'The Chuckler,' a serial killing clown.  And what was his motive for the murders?  And did her mother fall victim, as well?

Someone in the community is hiding a deadly secret, but will Henrietta uncover the mystery of her missing mother before she falls victim, herself?

This was a very well-written, cozy little mystery written in the mid 80's.  Though it reads as a more modern, contemporary gothic romance, it's still pretty specific to the genre.  You have all the creepy elements:  a young woman uncovering family secrets, murder, an isolated cabin where the heroine resides alone, several mysteries to uncover, and a dash of romance.  This was a wonderful read and I would recommend it to fans of the Gothic genre as well as the Romantic Suspense.

My Rating:

   5 Stars

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