"And though it is many decades later, it all comes back to me; back even to those early days, when the terror was new and I was dangerously untrained. When I was young and did not yet know I had a secret..."
I have recently completed my second reading of author Jacqueline Lepore's debut Descent into Dust.
Yes, you are not mistaken, you did indeed read those words correctly. My second reading.
That is how captivating a page turner of novel this is.
Set amidst the Victorian era, the novel debuts by introducing us to the heroine Emma Andrews, a young widow on her way to her cousin's home in the countryside of Wiltshire.
It all begins innocently enough with glimpses into the life and surroundings, the somewhat fractured relationship between Emma and her sister Alyssa and the bond between Emma and little cousin Henrietta.
But nevertheless, within the first few chapters, as the story progresses, Lepore manages to weave in a sense foreboding that is almost palpable, and this is maintained through the story.
As I read, I felt myself being drawn into the mystery with a multitude of questions: Who is Marius? Is he real? What does he have to do with Henrietta and the Hawthorn tree? What is Valerian Fox's secret? What was the real story behind Emma's mother's "condition"? Who can Emma trust?
Lepore's use of the first person perspective, through the eyes of Emma, proved very effective in building the moments of genuine, hair raising suspense and terror, which all played out initially, on a psychological level, then manifested itself on a level all too real for the characters in the novel... and I have to admit, at some point too (psychologically) on/for this humble reader, given that some aspects manifested in my dreams thereafter.
Descent into Dust is a novel rich with intrigue, full of flowing textured language and good old fashioned Gothic horror. It taps at the window of your psyche before it grips you by the throat.
It mesmerizes into wanting to read on to the end and then some more (fortunately there will be more in The Cyprian Queen... unfortunately we have to wait until March 2011).
Don't be surprised, if like me, you read it twice.
I'm highly recommending you give this book a read!
For more on Jacqueline, you can be sure to visit her website and you can also find her on Twitter
You can also read some interviews with Jacqueline at: VampChix, Fang-tastic Books and Suburban Vampire.