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Isabella Moon    by Laura Benedict order for
Isabella Moon
by Laura Benedict
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Laura Benedict's Isabella Moon is a compelling combination of psychological mystery and horror. Isabella, the nine-year-old daughter of aging hippie Hanna Moon, inexplicably went missing from Carystown, Kentucky almost two years before this story begins.

Isabella's ghost makes its presence known to Kate Russell, who came to Carystown burdened with her own secrets, and haunted by a violent past. Now she works for unpredictable, aggressive Janet Rourke in her insurance agency, and has a comfortable relationship with outdoorsman Caleb Boyd. But when Kate tells Sheriff Bill Delaney that she knows where Isabella is buried, he doesn't take her seriously. It takes another murder - of someone else who saw small Isabella's ghost - before the Sheriff actually digs up the remains. Kate - and the reader - wonder what drew the ghost to her in particular.

Events unfold - interspersed with flashbacks to Kate's prior life as Mary-Katie - to reveal a sordid underbelly to this seemingly idyllic town. The Sheriff is kept busy with the new murder and also the sudden death of a young athlete on the basketball court. Kate's best friend Francie Cayley is having an affair with local playboy Paxton Birkenshaw, whose socialite mother disapproves of his relationship with a black woman (Francie's mother Lillian also disapproves, having taught Paxton when he as a child). There are drugs, violence and official corruption.

In addition to the mystery and supernatural aspects, Isabella Moon tells a tale of good women who are drawn to flawed, violent, and needy men. It's a suitably dark and atmospheric read for October nights.

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