It’s a Mystery: Isabella Moon, by Laura Benedict

Isabella MoonWhatever happened to Isabella?

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two years ago, Kate Russell moved to rural Carystown, Kentucky, aiming to build a new life for herself, and reticent about her past. Recently her sleep has been interrupted by dreams in which a little girl, Isabella Moon, beckons her into the night. Isabella disappeared some time ago, and her fate has never been discovered, which sticks in the craw of Sheriff Delaney. When Kate’s dreams indicate where to find Isabella’s body, she feels it’s her duty to inform him. He knows better than to take fanciful reports seriously, but his suspicions are raised about Kate herself. If Kate has her own secrets, so do half the people in town, and before Isabella’s mystery is solved, the Sheriff will be appalled by what’s been going on under his very nose.

In spite of its spooky opening, Isabella Moon is slow to take off. Told in the third person from multiple perspectives, it takes a while to come to know the major players. I nearly gave up on the book. But the lives of Carystown folk have been intertwined for generations, and their back stories are important. Things finally take wing about a third of the way through, twisting into a dark, rich, Peyton Place sort of puzzle, with gothic undertones and a sprinkling of the supernatural. This is a character driven novel, all of them vivid and memorable. As for the ending, it’s pretty creepy; a bit too ambiguous for my taste, but it certainly is in keeping with the rest of the picture. For a debut novel, Isabella Moon is first rate.

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