5 June 2008

ISABELLA MOON, Laura Benedict

Heinemann 2008, 978-034-01705-8, 351 pages

Most days, Sheriff Bill Delaney of Carystown, Kentucky, liked his job. He'd been Sheriff for the last twelve years, and the job had largely proved pretty uneventful. That's unless you counted the disappearance of 9 year old Isabella Moon without trace nearly two years earlier. That had really put Carystown on the national map with lots of media attention for several months. Bill Delaney preferred the quiet life.

Kate Russell had turned up in Carystown just over two years ago and she had never met Isabella Moon, in the flesh, that is. But now here she is in Bill's office telling him that she knows where Isabella Moon is buried, that she's been having visitations from Isabella's ghost.

There's rather a lot going on in Laura Benedict's debut novel ISABELLA MOON, and there does seem to have been quite a lot that Bill Delaney, in his preference for the quiet life, simply hasn't seen or deliberately ignored. The death of a local teenager from a drug overdose, his mother and school both asserting he didn't "do drugs", is linked to a thriving drugs factory kept hidden through police corruption. I'm not particularly fond of my crime fiction being mixed in with the paranormal, and this element of the novel, with several "appearances" of Isabella Moon, does require suspension of disbelief in the reader.

But that wasn't the only thing that bothered me. There is a scene early on where Bill Delaney and his wife Margaret are digging in a local cemetery by moonlight in the spot where Kate Russell says the body is buried. Most unlikely, I thought. As in most small towns, the main characters of ISABELLA MOON are linked in only a couple of degrees of separation, rather too much in the fashion of a spider's web. And then there's the way that Kate's past in the form of a domineering left-for-dead husband catches up with her. As I said, there's a lot going on. A more experienced writer may have been able to weave the story with a few less strands.

Nevertheless, I found ISABELLA MOON compulsive reading, and those who do like their paranormal interwoven with crime fiction will love it. Laura Benedict expects to be publishing her second novel CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS early in 2009. Her website contains a slick video promo for ISABELLA MOON, a synopsis, and an excerpt, among other things. Her blog First and Last Lines was created to show progress with her new novel. A search of Amazon shows that ISABELLA MOON is available for Kindle.

My rating: 4.3

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