cover image Ghost Moon

Ghost Moon

Karen Robards. Delacorte Press, $24.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31972-0

The fainthearted should be warned: Robards (The Midnight Hour) has crafted a mossy modern gothic drenched in gore. In northern Louisiana, little girls die at the hands of a twisted villain, and the author's detached style makes the killings' gruesomeness especially hard to take. The psychotic murderer has kidnapped four girls over the course of a decade, and he's ready to strike again. Will the next victim be eight-year-old Sara, weight-conscious daughter of broke, divorced Olivia Morrison? Or will it be eight-year-old Chloe, glamorous offspring of single dad Seth Archer, Olivia's stepcousin? Livvy and Seth remain blissfully ignorant of lurking danger, consumed with the welter of contradictory emotions kicked up by the ongoing drama in their family. Raised by her stepfamily, the wealthy Archer clan, Livvy left La Angelle Plantation nine years ago to become the teen bride of a no-good cowboy. She has just returned to the Louisiana estate, humbled by her greatly reduced circumstances and with daughter Sara in tow. Though she is welcomed back, Livvy is haunted by shadowy, frightening nightmares and the mystery surrounding her mother's death almost 20 years ago. Robards conveys the dusty heat of the Louisiana summer, and has an ear for the nuances of dialogue. But the cast of characters is so big, and the dramatics so unrelenting, that readers never have a chance to fully absorb the dynamics of the clan, and the serial killings remain an unintegrated subplot till the very end. When the bogeyman makes a move close to home, and Livvy and Seth get romantically involved, the murder mystery and the love story finally, satisfyingly, converge. (Feb.)