cover image Grave Intent

Grave Intent

Deborah LeBlanc, . . Leisure, $6.99 (374pp) ISBN 978-0-8439-5553-8

While emerging novelist LeBlanc's second chiller returns to south-central Louisiana (her own stomping ground and the setting for 2003's Family Inheritance ), the story is flavored this time not by the author's familiarity with Cajun culture but by another aspect of her personal background: funeral management consultation. During a chaotic gypsy burial service at the funeral parlor of Michael and Janet Savoy, a ritual gold coin is stolen from the corpse of the teenage daughter of an egomaniacal Roma gypsy chief. The theft unleashes a curse on the Savoys, unwitting unbelievers who come to realize their own five-year-old child is doomed to a gruesome death if they can't unravel a foreign culture's arcane mysteries in time to return the coin "before rising of second sun [sic]." Funeral industry scenes that are vividly detailed down to the last drop of embalming fluid make the plot's unreal supernatural situations seem equally believable. But regrettably, except in a moody but brief prologue, the Roma characters (and their culture) remain undeveloped. The curse, therefore, is less compelling than merely creepy—and confusing: a mysteriously unmotivated, if unrelenting, barrage of monsters and walking dead. Agent, Lynn Seligmann. (July 5)