cover image The Abandoned Heart: A Bliss House Novel

The Abandoned Heart: A Bliss House Novel

Laura Benedict. Pegasus Crime (Norton, dist.), $25.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-68177-229-5

Only a fervent fan of the first two installments in Benedict’s trilogy, Bliss House and Charlotte’s Story, will find much pleasure in this final volume, which delves into the dark roots of the evil in remote Old Gate, Va., circa 1876. Libertine Randolph Bliss, a wealthy Yankee, is hell-bent on erecting an extravagant mansion on ground already rumored to be haunted by multiple murders. Maybe Randolph just feels right at home, for beneath his fine clothes and superficial civility he is truly monstrous, an equal opportunity abuser—physical, sexual, psychological—of women, including his long-suffering first wife, Amelia; Kiku, the 15-year-old Japanese prostitute he installs in a cottage on the grounds before Amelia and their profoundly disabled daughter, Tamora, have even moved in to the mansion; and Lucy, the second Mrs. Bliss. Although the action leapfrogs from the late 1870s to 1924 and to myriad points in between, this conclusion offers, unlike the first book, no real glimmer of hope—for either Bliss’s victims or the reader. Agent: Susan Raihofer, David Black Agency. (Oct.)