|Date Published||17 August 2017|
The Shimmering Road
Charlie Cates’ mother and sister have been murdered, leaving a legacy she cannot ignore.
Then a call from her aunt staggers her. Charlie’s estranged mother has been murdered. So has the sister she didn’t even know existed. And if that isn’t enough to rock her world, Charlie discovers she is an aunt, and Micky, her niece, needs her.
As Charlie and Noel cross Texas for Arizona, they have no idea of the web of lies they are heading for. With Charlie’s past on a collision course with her visions of death, meeting her orphaned niece could be the start of an uncertain life, or quite simply, her own brutal demise.
If it is well written, I lap up a bit of paranormal or fantasy. It has to accompany a great story line, and the author must make me believe in its reality by not over-explaining. Just assume it is normal, not paranormal. I am sure that is why the likes of Stephen King has us on the edge of our seats and why Harry Potter works; JK Rowling doesn’t make excuses or try and explain the existence of witches, wizards and monsters – they are simply there, and we are invited to read fascinating tales about them. Hester Young has satisfyingly achieved the same effect. That her protagonist sees the future in her dreams is just the way it is. And although Charlie’s visions are central to the plot and mould her introspections and behaviour, Young doesn’t harp on about her character’s gift or make apologies.
When my eyes settled on the first page, I groaned out loud. The story opened with a prologue, very much the Marmite of the writing world, and worse still, it was a dream scene. Never con your readers with a dream; it is nothing short of a gimmick to hook people in. The first pages did not bode well. However, the prologue was mercifully short, and the dream comprehensible. I handed out a small black mark but decided to not throw the book across the room straight away. And I am so glad I didn’t, because while the writing is far from perfect, it is an intriguing plot, with well-handled emotional questions and dilemmas, and enough twists to keep up the suspense. The author balances show and tell, along with dialogue and action, and she sprinkles backstory judiciously.
I did find the number of replacements for the word ‘say’ intrusive. And Young has taken the easy route for making Noel’s voice distinctive; rather than giving him a unique syntax or vocabulary, she has gone for the n’ factor: darlin’, nothin’, givin’. Irritatin’!
Charlie is reasonably rounded, and likeable, but her behaviour (particularly for a heavily pregnant woman) is less than convincing in places, and at times it had my suspension of disbelief hanging by a thread. Noel runs a medium-sized business, which didn’t sit right with his verging on wimpy attitude. Young’s other characters are a bit flat and stereotyped, which made it rather easy to work out whodunit. Finally, there is a healthy sprinkling of conveniences and some rather forgiving evil people, who, I am sure in real life, would not have left Charlie and her family unscathed.
Criticisms aside, The Shimmering Road is a thoroughly enjoyable book for escapism. Although there are moments when the reveal risks becoming corny, I like the conviction of the culprits' misdirected morals. It lessens the black versus white, and gives the reader a brief insight into the grey. The story deals with powerful, ugly and sad issues, whilst taking the reader on a journey of suspense.
Reviewed 19 August 2017 by Kati Barr-Taylor
Kati Barr-Taylor lives in her ‘cosy pigsty’ in the Dordogne. She satisfies her literary cravings by translating, writing, editing and reading.