cover image Theme Music

Theme Music

T. Marie Vandelly. Dutton, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4470-0

Dixie Wheeler, the narrator of Vandelly’s chilling, enthralling debut, was the sole survivor of a massacre in which her father, Bill, took an ax and, just before breakfast one Thanksgiving, killed his wife and their three sons—ages 15, eight, and four—before slitting his own throat. Only 18-month-old Dixie was left unharmed in their Franconia, Va., home. The press nicknamed her “Baby Blue” because that Badfinger song was playing when the police arrived. When the Wheeler house comes on the market 25 years later, listed as a “stigmatized property,” Dixie impulsively buys it, despite vehement objections from her boyfriend and the aunt who raised her. Dixie furnishes it with the family’s furniture that was stored in the garage of her late uncle, who was adamant that Bill was innocent. The suspense rises as Dixie hears noises, finds items moved or missing, hallucinates about her dead family, and taps into her own dark side. Driven by a believable plot and populated with realistic characters, this delicious mix of horror, ghost story, and mystery marks Vandelly as a writer to watch. Agent: Zoe Sandler, ICM. (July)