The Widow's Woods

Mignon Franklin Ballard, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $18.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-88184-680-5
Ballard's ( Cry at Dusk ) latest mystery/romance is dreary and pedestrian. Recently jilted Jane Cannon returns to her hometown of Sweetsprings, S.C., to mind the family store while her parents vacation in Europe. A schoolgirl has recently been killed in nearby Widow's Woods, in what appears to have been a satanic ritual, so the climate is already tense when Jane finds her neighbor, newspaper columnist Chloe Applegate, drowned in a nearby swimming pool, and when another neighbor, a sulky, spoiled teenager, disappears. Jane and friends, including a new and enigmatic love interest, investigate when a stranger is seen lurking nearby; Jane also encounters the local high school coven practicing its ceremonies in the woods. After several mysterious accidents occur, Jane begins to doubt her new love and to fear for her life. Both trite and boring, the novel lacks even a sense of place (the setting could be any small town in America). Excitement is dampened yet further by Ballard's deployment of a main plot element that hinges on the hoary device whereby major characters, for no good reason, decline to share information that would have cleared up half the mystery and most of the red herrings. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1991
Release date: 05/01/1991
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