Evocative Gothic Horror: Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea
Gothic horror wrapped in mystery, intrigue and the supernatural was just the right blend in April Genevieve’s Tucholke’s Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea. And when I finished the final page, I was left tapping my fingers, thinking,
"Sequel, please. Puh-lease. I am not good at waiting. Patience is not a virute."
Well, I'll be waiting for it until August of 2014.
Twin teens, Violet and Luke, live alone in the once decadent mansion their grandmother dubbed “Citizen Kane.” Built by their fabulously rich and influential ancestors, Citizen Kane could comfortably settle into an Edgar Allen Poe story. Its wine cellar holds a chilling atmosphere perfect for The Cask of Amontillado.
Citizen Kane sits aloof atop a ridge overlooking the Atlantic, a crumbling tribute to a glorious past and a cold reminder of the depth of despair that is the present reality. The town of Echo situated near the dying mansion looks upon the twins' abode with scorn taking comfort in the downfall of a once rich and powerful family.
Violet and Luke's artistic parents leave them for months at a time while they pursue their dreams in vibrant oils and acrylics inspired by the art and history found only in Europe. "Here's some money," they would say on their way out the door. "Make it last until we return."
The money always lasted until it didn't.
Faced with dwindling cash, depleted supplies and withering hope, Violet hits upon a plan. Their guesthouse could bring in cash to keep them in food until their parents' wanderlust takes a rest, bringing their parents back home.
With five hundred dollars in hand, a renter with the melodious name of River West comes to their door. About Violet's age and with eccentricities to match her own, Violet sees him as a grand solution to their financial crisis.
I slipped the sandal off my right foot and tapped my toes on the stone step, making my yellow skirt swing against my knees. "So… You want to rent the guesthouse?"
"Yep." River put an elbow out and leaned onto his shiny car. He wore black linen pants—the kind I thought only stubble-jawed Spanish men wore in European movies set by the sea—and a white button-down shirt. It might have looked strange on someone else. But it suited him all right.
This new denizen of Citizen Kane swaggers into Violet's life bringing more than a charming smile, beguiling eyes and a mysterious past.
Violet's grandmother spoke of the reality of evil but she never warned that it could take hold of your hand, secure you in its seductive grip and with a devilish addiction make you love him.
This morning I had been River-ignorant, sitting on my front step reading Hawthorne's Mosses from an Old Manse and unaware of his existence. Now I was shopping for groceries with him and liking that he did it like me. And I was eating food his food and licking my lips, and everything seemed smooth and happy and one-of-a-kind wonderful.
Edged with a sense of dread, of waiting for Violet's fairytale romance to fall into a dark abyss comprised of manipulation with a tincture of magic, gives the unfolding love story a hint of evil to come. Darkness, devilish actions and horror not understood by Violet or her friends fascinated and horrified me. Succumbing to the will of another feels good to Violet and all those blinded by River’s charm.
The devil has inconceivable wiles.
A cast of characters worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy: Luke, his girlfriend Sunshine, their young friend Jack and River's brother Neeley, come together with Violet and River in this harrowing tale with twists that truly surprised me.
River has a supernatural ability that wends its way into every life he literally touches. His sly character inspires dubious trust. The book climaxes into violence with evil incarnate stepping into its pages.
Its complex plot stops at a pretty nasty cliffhanger that has me itching for the sequel, Between the Spark & the Burn.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by the publisher.