Signet, 2007 (2007)
Reviewed by Martina Bexte
rtist Emma Beck had no idea she had been adopted until the death of her parents. Their substantial legacy leaves her with the means to track down her real roots. The moment she arrives in the rural town of Benina, South Carolina, she somehow knows that '
I've finally come home
'. More disconcerting however, is the realization that an old abandoned property just outside of town (and more specifically, the rambling house that she feels strongly drawn to) is an exact replica of the one she's dreamed about and painted dozens of times over the years. The moment Emma steps onto the rundown porch, she makes a spur of the moment decision - she purchases the property and then hires local contractor, Mike Ruhl, to proceed with extensive renovations.
ike has always hated the old Barnett place - it's creeped him out his whole life. During the renovation process, he invents numerous excuses to work outside while his crew takes care of things inside. He'll be more than happy to see the last of the place once his obligations are complete. But his involvement with Emma Beck and her spooky old house has only just begun. From the moment they meet, both are wildly drawn to each other: Emma recognizes the handsome contractor as a recurring character from her paintings including one who's dressed as a Confederate officer. And Mike can't seem to concentrate on anything except coming up with reasons to swing by and visit with Emma. Within days, they become lovers, each finding a peace and fulfillment that's as thrilling as it is baffling.
ut despite their newfound contentment, an aura of pervasive evil lurks within the walls of the house. Soon Emma begins hearing mysterious whisperings and Mike discovers a hidden journal in the attic, both of which lead to a series of horrible revelations that not only involve Emma's birth mother but threaten to destroy Mike and Emma as well.
hile Lisle has created a pair of leads who aren't quite as dynamic as those in her previous suspenses, she's on top of her game plot wise, having concocted a crackerjack of a ghost story in
. She cleverly incorporates a reincarnation theme which gives the proceedings a heightened creep factor. The how's and why's surrounding Emma's ties to the house as well as her
relationship with Mike and his immediate family is a riveting and clever puzzler that will keep you guessing. Expert pacing of each revelation adds even more shock value as the story barrels to a chilling, surprising and ultimately satisfying conclusion.
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