To carry the sleigh
Through the tear and bloodstained snow…
Joslyn Faust passed away in 1940, after losing all but one of her children to death. The Weatherby Mills history books paint her as a kind, generous woman, willing to lend a hand to any one of her neighbors. Weatherby Mills lore, however, blames her ghost for the deaths of at least four men.
That’s where Delilah Isles and Milly West come in.
Working for the New England Spirit Society, the women have seen many violent and cruel attacks by human spirits and non-human entities. After all, the most violent and disturbing cases come to them. They know the myths about Joslyn Faust, so when the case comes their way they are both anxious to start investigating and uncertain whether or not it’s a case for N.E.S.S. But the first time they set foot on the Faust property that uncertainty is vanquished, because Joslyn Faust turns out to be a whole lot darker than they anticipated.
– S & S –
Over the River Review
There was a lot to like about this book but it did have it’s flaws as well. Let’s start with the good.
The characters were very likable. The dialogue between the friends was very believable and flowed very naturally. They really felt like good friends who had known each other for a long time. The pacing flows nicely. The action is described well. The story was interesting and really pulled me in. I also liked that during the big showdown they actually get hurt and the author spends a page or two to let us know they received medical treatment and were taken care of. No miraculous healing in which the girls felt just fine after a physically and mentally intense battle. So, huge kudos on the realism of that.
However, as I mentioned above, there were a few flaws that were a bit hard to overlook. There was so much left unexplained to it. The backstory between the Tays and the Daltons. There are hints here and there. From what I gathered in Over the River the Tays were holding ghosts to their mountain and more than likely killing some people as well to bind their ghosts to the mountain as well. What is unexplained though is to what purpose. It sounds like it’s for a power thing but for what reason? A bit of background would have gone a long way.
In the reality of Over the River the paranormal seems an accepted fact of life. Realtors are supposed to disclose possible hauntings, local groups are tasked with taking care of the less powerful ghosts and entities. However, when the entity or demon is particularly powerful the N.E.S.S. is called in. They are a “secret” division of the F.B.I.. I use the quotation marks because they don’t seem to be all that “secret”. For instance, they visit the library early so nobody gets nosy. A few things happen because their secret investigation is spread around town.
Some of the world is built well. I personally liked the hospital for people who have, in one way or another, been pushed over the edge by their gifts. It’s a nice touch. Also, the research they do and the bent of their investigation is logical. They access normal research materials and use their F.B.I. liaison to search for less accessible items. All of that lends a nice air of realism to Over the River.
However, again, a bit more information about the group would have been nice. How secret are they? How did it start? Why? There are tidbits here and there but they seemed only thrown in to explain what was going on at the moment but with no further explanation or background.
The next part may deal a bit here and there with plot elements so please highlight the whited out parts if you wish. The property they are researching belonged to one Joslyn Faust. The townspeople remember Joslyn Faust as a benevolent, generous woman, despite her having several children out of wedlock. However, only two survived past childhood and in the end she killed them as well and became guardians of the grandchildren, who also met their untimely ends with Joslyn. Delilah and Milly are incredulous that the towns people had no suspicions at all and eventually come to the conclusion that her money and generosity covered most of her sins and did not invite closer inspection. It seems a bit of an implausible explanation and even Delilah and Milly express their doubts about that being the sole cause. But, it’s not gone into further.
Also, their psychic gifts. To do Over the River credit they are explained well. My only problem is that their uses seem to change at will sometimes with little to no explanation. For instance: The three women use their powers together to pull a ghost from an energy stream in which she is trapped by an evil Tay ghost. But the way their powers are described it doesn’t seem like they should be able to do that.
Boiled down I would say the biggest issue Over the River has (besides using the word baby-daddy far too frequently) is the lack of explanation for so many things. Why was Helen so involved (yes, it does say her brother was killed by Joslyn’s ghost but it doesn’t seem like it explains enough)? What exactly is the background relationship between the Tays and Daltons? Some characters are met in passing only to impart information and then are never heard from again.
Spoiler: It’s a huge thing in Over the River that Joslyn is using the children’s spirits to ‘feed’ herself and someone else. I’m not trying to be gruesome but they way it was explained was unique. Depressing and sad but unique and creative nonetheless. The purpose is never explained. It seems to be for power but we’re never told for what. It seems like the N.E.S.S. know what the ‘feeding’ means but never enlighten the reader. There seems to be some sort of end game with the presence of the two children who seem unconnected to the Joslyn thing but sinister nonetheless.
However, I’m not crazy about that method of setting up a series. The book in question, at the beginning of a series, should take the time to build the world and set the rules of the world. Even one that’s mostly grounded in reality. It should also answer most of the questions raised in the book while leaving maybe one or two small things to keep the reader hooked. In the case of Over the River, the two demonic/ghost children would have filled that role nicely. Because I am very curious to know who they are (or what they are). As it stands, I’m frustrated with the lack of explanation or closure with way too much of the book. I don’t need my hand held all the way through but I do need something to go on.
There are also a couple of minor nitpicks that didn’t really diminish my pleasure in reading the book but were a tad irksome just the same. The dialogue between friends that I mentioned above was great. The minor annoyances were when Delilah Dalton and Gabriel Tay (ghost) would speak to each other. It was very melodramatic and the use of, “I’m watching you, Delilah Dalton.” and “You should be warned I’m not giving up, Gabriel Tay” were slightly overdone and melodramatic. By the fifth name thing I was ready to say, “Ok, I got it! She’s a Dalton, he’s a Tay!”
Also (this might just be a personal gripe that most people would overlook) in the middle of a fairly serious meeting of the team Delilah snuggles up on her husband’s lap. I realize they are all good friends but c’mon. It’s more than a little unprofessional.
All in all it’s a light, quick read. As a series starter I might read the next one, especially if the author gets a little better at tying up the loose strands that dangle all over the place. I was very curious about what might come next for the team. Taking a peek at her site it does look like there is a second one which I will probably check out because I did like the people and I think the author has a great potential to smooth out her writing.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Skulls