BurntownBurntown by Jennifer McMahon
Published by Doubleday Canada on April 25th 2017
Pages: 336
ISBN: 0385687036
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Ten year old Miles Sandeski witnesses his Mother being Murdered by a man wearing a chicken mask. In an attempt to save his Mother, Miles shoots her killer with his bow and arrow. His father is arrested for her Murder and subsequently commits suicide while in prison. Miles has always stood by his story that his father did not kill his Mother, but a man in a chicken suit did.

Eva Sandeski loved watching her father build in his workshop. He built wonderful things with hidden compartments where he would leave little trinkets for her to find. His most important “invention” (really Thomas Edison’s) is a device that allows a person to talk to the dead. The blueprints were left to Miles by his father who had them handed down to him.

One night a terrible storm rages and the river near the Sandeski family home begins to rise. As the family begins to make preparations to avoid being flooded, the machine turns on and Miles’ Mother’s voice is heard telling them there was “danger” and “He’s here”. The next thing Eva remembers she is lying on the riverbank and her Mother tells her that her Father and brother are both dead, they no longer have a home and they need to hide because they are still in danger.

Eva and her Mother are “rescued” by an interesting group of women known as the “fire eaters” Eva’s Mother soon becomes one of them and they change their names. Eva decides to change her name to Necco after the candy she loved as a child. Necco/Eva finds herself alone after her Mother’s suicide and begins living in an abandoned car with her boyfriend Hermes. Then one day she wakes up to find her boyfriend has been murdered and she is considered a suspect.

She is not the only character in this book. There is sweet lovable Pru who dreams of having her own circus. Mr. Marcelle, who has always been kind to Pru, is the “strong man” of her dreams. He makes deliveries to the school where Pru works, but he also works as a private investigator. He has been hired to find a missing person and will not stop until he has answers. Then there is Theo a lonely high school student who gets into a bad situation, after experiencing love for the first time. Theo is the catalyst for Pru and Necco/Eva meeting The three of them form a bond and band together to try and figure out what happened to Theo’s missing money, who killed Necco/Eva’s boyfriend, who is the chicken man, and what really happened the night that Eva’s father and brother died.

Whew! This book is full of secrets but they are all tied together. I am not even sure how to classify this book. Is it a mystery? Yes! Is it a thriller? Yes! Are there some supernatural elements? Yes! Basically this book has something for everyone. While reading this book, I kept thinking how this also felt like it had the vibe of an Alice Hoffman book. By that I mean, the mixing of paranormal with fiction, with mystery, with romance. I think this takes a special skill to pull off and McMahon did it beautifully. They way she wove her story really worked.

This book was oddly compelling and I read (devoured) this book! There were lots of characters in this book and eventually all of their stories connect in the end. While reading the book, I kept wondering about her “brother”. While reading, I scratched my head thinking..”I thought Eva was an only child” then “hmmmm why isn’t her brother mentioned in any news articles?” but that is answered in the book. Again, everything really does tie together in the end ( I know I have been saying that a lot in this review but it is true!!!).

In short, I really enjoyed this book! I also loved “The Winter People” by McMahon. These books are entirely different but both were such a pleasure to read. This book is different but wonderfully so. It is almost like a circus. One needs to suspend some disbelief while reading this. It’s worth it, by the way. I can’t say that there is anything about his book that I did not like. I really enjoyed how the story unraveled. Things are not always as they seem and those who loves us, sometimes lie to us to keep us safe. Small towns harbor and hold secrets – until eventually the dam breaks and they come pouring out.

I received this book from Doubleday and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


The Winter People

The Winter PeopleThe Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
Published by Doubleday on February 11th 2014
Pages: 317
ISBN: 0385538499
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West Hall, Vermont is a town where people go missing without explanation. This remote small town has it secrets and wants to keep it that way. The most mysterious secret is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Skip to the present day where 19 year old Ruthie returns home to find her Mother, Alice, missing. Ruthie, her Mother and her Younger sister, Fawn, have been living in the house where Sara Harrison Shea used to live. While trying to figure out where her Mother is and why she is missing, Ruthie finds a diary that once belonged to Sara Harrison Shea hidden under the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. Has History repeated itself in this modern day ghost story? There is also the story of Kathryn who comes to town to investigate the death of her husband who visited West Hall, Vermont without her knowledge.

The Winter People is a beautifully written page turner. It is a spooky ghost story that blends the story between the turn of the 20th century and the present day. I hated putting this book down. The characters are vividly written and developed. There are many characters in this book but they do not overwhelm the story or the reader. We learn in the beginning of the book that the town experiences “sleepers” or ghosts. Are the sleepers or ghosts in this book bad or does the problem lay with the living and the desperate lengths they will go to see their loved ones one last time. This book tells the story of people dealing with untimely deaths. Even though the story jumps back and forth between present day and 1908; it does not get confusing. This book asks the question “what power do the dead have over the living?” If you had the chance to bring back a deceased love one for just a short period of time to say goodbye would you? But most importantly this book also reminds the reader of the old adage “be careful what you wish for”