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The Mill River Recluse    by Darcie Chan order for
Mill River Recluse
by Darcie Chan
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Darcie Chan's The Mill River Recluse moves back and forth in time to tell two stories, and then links them together in a satisfying way, with a few surprises tossed into the mix. The setting, Mill River, is a sleepy Vermont town.

In the present day, we meet police officer Kyle Hansen, who seeks a safer job (he was previously a detective in Boston) and a pleasant place to raise his nine-year-old daughter Rowen after they lost Rowen's mother to cancer. Rowen's pretty schoolteacher, Claudia Simon, also recently moved to the area - she recently lost over ninety pounds. She's determined to keep her current figure and happy to be somewhere that people do not remember her as she was before.

Ironically, Claudia's new looks have attracted the interest of another police officer, the incompetent and immature Leroy Underwood, who soon becomes her stalker, and is extremely jealous when she and Kyle embark rather tentatively on a relationship. And is the town really safe? Daisy Delaine, who makes and sells potions, claims that her trailer was destroyed by an arsonist and that she saw him leaving the scene of the crime, but no-one believes Crazy Daisy.

Who is the Mill River recluse? That would be the wealthy, widowed Mary McAllister, who has lived for decades alone in a marble mansion overlooking the town. The back story (which begins in 1940) reveals the repeated tragedies that left the poor woman in this state. Her only contact for many years has been Father O'Brien, who has tried and failed to get her out of the mansion. But even he does not know all of Mary's secrets - and he has a secret of his own.

Darcie Chan weaves together threads of mystery, tragedy and romance to tell the story of a solitary woman, who kept apart from others but nevertheless saw a great deal and had a huge and very beneficial impact on her community. The Mill River Recluse is a most satisfying read.

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