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Saturday, June 25, 2011


Title: Visions
Publisher: Sugar and Spice Press
Publisher's Web site: http://www.sugarspicepress.com
Author: Anna James
ISBN 978-1-936668-19-9

Reviewed by David Russell



Once again Anna shows herself to be a consummate ‘crossover’ artist, in this work fusing the genres of detective, horror and romance, with a bit of ghost story thrown in. It sustains drama and suspense throughout, with an intricate plot and fastidious attention to detail.
Very effective use is made of ‘flashback’ technique, which is highlighted in italics – highly reader-friendly. They combine dreams and visions with ‘real’ temporal flashbacks to Prus’s childhood.
This is a really fast-paced narrative – really dynamic opener of a nightmare vision of someone being murdered. My curiosity was immediately aroused as to what triggered off the nightmares. The setting is Salem, Massachusetts. This could not have been more appropriate. This was the scene of some notorious witch hunting in the 18th Century, celebrated in the 20th by Arthur Miller’sThe Crucible (Penguin Classics) (otherwise known as The Witches of Salem) which drew analogies between those persecutions and the activities of the Un-American Activities House under Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. Rightly, there are references to this context in the narrative.
Salem turns out to be the birthplace of the heroine Pru (Prudence). Pru revisits her birthplace, and is surprised to find it in good condition, although it has been deserted for many years. Pru has very belatedly discovered that she was adopted, and that her natural parents were murdered, reputedly in the same house. Pru is met by MaryEllen who tells her the place is haunted, and that the murders took place there.
Matt, the detective, had been resident in the vicinity since childhood. He had access to the case files relating to the murder. There had been a serial murderer, Joshua Adams; and after his death a ‘copycat murderer’ who repeated the pattern. There was one vital clue, a piece of plastic stuck to the victim’s shirt.
Excellent fusion of detective and romance with Pru immediately fancying Matt the detective. Highly dramatic when their first tryst is cut short by a violent storm which causes a power cut and a tree to be blown down. (Passion continues to rise in between the interruptions. Lovely sensual description later on, ‘her hips meeting his’. A touch of the domestic too; Pru helps entertain Matt’s parents when they come to dinner.) In the course of the storm, a wall board is damaged, to reveal a staircase leading up to the attic, which could have offered the killer an escape route. Because this route had not been discovered at the time of the murders, it was assumed that there had been a suicide-murder, of man and wife. An escape route called all this into doubt. I was most impressed by the thoroughness of the architectural details.
Pru is determined to go to the attic, to be confronted with a dream assailant, who accuses In her nightmare, of practicing witchcraft. The ‘encounter’ in the attic, to me, fuses vision and reality, past in flashback and present. Traumatized by her realization of the true murderer, Pru has a fall, into unconsciousness, and has to be rushed to hospital.
When she recovers, the killer is revealed. I won’t reveal the killer’s identity here: that must be discovered by reading the book in its entirety – though I’m sure some readers of this review will be making some good guesses. I’ll just drop a hint that jealousy took its part, and that a telltale pen was found in a key location.
After the revelation, the story has a conventional ‘happy ending’ in the form of Pru and Matt deciding to get married. To me this was something of an anticlimax after the intensity of the story itself.




Here is the blurb and short excerpt that can also be included with the review:
Prudence Bailey has just learned that Laura Bailey, the woman she has always believed to be her mother, is in fact a distant cousin. Laura adopted Prudence when she was four years old after her father, Joshua Adams, brutally murdered her mother, Jane, then killed himself.She has no memory of the past and, after Laura’s death, decides to return home to Salem Massachusetts to learn more.

Twenty years have now passed since the murder / suicide took place.

Almost immediately she meets Detective Matt Cavanaugh, her neighbor. Matt is gorgeous and sexy and Pru is instantly attracted to him. Matt is also linked to her past. His father, now a retired police officer, was first on the scene the night of her parents’ deaths.

From the moment she returns Pru experiences visions that lead her to believe that the circumstances surrounding her parents’ deaths are not as they seem. The facts don’t add up. And when a recent murder that Matt is investigating is linked to the past they discover that Pru is right and the killer is still on the loose.

Will they discover the killer’s identity in time or will history repeat itself?

Prologue
Sweat trickled down the sides of her face. Her eyes were huge with fear and tremors racked her body. “No! Please don’t.” Prudence Bailey could hear the terror in the woman’s voice as she begged for her life. Someone came toward the woman; he was holding a knife. Or was it a she? Pru couldn’t tell from this angle. She saw the woman’s arms shoot up to try and ward off her attacker. It was a futile attempt. He overpowered her easily. Then it happened. The knife plunged deep into her chest. The screams were terrifying. She saw the woman crumple but it wasn’t over. The knife plunged into the woman again and again. Finally, the screaming stopped.

Pru shot straight up in bed. She too was drenched with sweat and her body shook with fear. This was the third night this week that she’d had the nightmare. It was the same each time. She pulled the blankets aside and got out of bed. Why is this happening to me? she wondered as she went down the stairs to double check that the windows and doors were locked. She didn’t know but she was sure as hell going to find out.

Thanks you for your consideration.


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Happy Reading,


Anna James




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