cover image Chapelwood: The Borden Dispatches, Book 2

Chapelwood: The Borden Dispatches, Book 2

Cherie Priest. Roc, $16 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-451-46698-3

Setting this slow but effective second Lizzie Borden/H.P. Lovecraft mashup in the 1920s, three decades after the events of Maplecroft, Priest emphasizes Lovecraft’s storytelling elements of mathematics, spiritualism, the dubious cultural values of the early-20th-century American Deep South, and mind-shatteringly monstrous beings. The convergence of the actions of members of the congregation of the titular Chapelwood Estate, a church with a “patriotic Southern bent,” and a series of axe-murders (initially drawing little attention, due to the ethnicity and occupations of the victims), compel Inspector Simon Wolf and Lizbeth Andrew (formerly Borden) to visit Birmingham, Ala. Ruth Stephenson, a 20-year-old medium, is an unwitting linchpin in the plans of those who strive to control cosmic balances, one of a select few residents of Birmingham to make a stand against the corruption of their community. Multiple narrators slow the already sedate pace, but that contributes to the story’s atmosphere of inexorable menace, as does the grim history Priest draws on. Agent: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Sept.)