Let the Dead Rest by J. P. Choquette
The doorbell pealed, a tumbling chime of notes that finished several long minutes before I opened the heavy old door. A small box lay on the mat, covered in brown paper. It was addressed to me in beautiful cursive. There was no return address. I looked up to wave at the delivery driver, to thank him for his trip up the treacherous drive, but his truck was already gone.
Cold air tangled in my hair and twined around my ankles. Shadows of the leaves overhead danced across the surface of the package. The box was about twelve inches long and half as wide. I turned it over in my hands, but there were no other markings on it. I went back inside and closed the door before Sampson escaped.
I carried the box to the kitchen counter. The wide pine boards were warm under my bare feet and sunlight fell in slanted beams across the old room. With scissors, I cut away the paper and then slit the tape that held the cardboard box closed. The paper fell away. Inside the box lay a note, in the same beautiful cursive, on top of a mound of packing peanuts.
J. P. Choquette's new book was perfect for my first read of this fall's R.I.P. XIII Challenge. Just take a look at that cover with the 'creepy doll'! Yes, I am rather fascinated with creepy dolls - all the way from Betty Ren Wright's The Dollhouse Murders (which I read to my daughter when she was in elementary school) to Hallie Ephron's You'll Never Know Dear (which I talked about last year here). Also, what is it about the woods of New England, Vermont in particular? There are always spooky houses and rustling leaves and winds that whip around. There are secrets and hidden things and perhaps a little gravestone. Have I piqued your interest yet? Good - let me tell you more.
Told in two time periods, Let the Dead Rest, gives us Etta in the 1940's and Isabel in the present day. Both live in the same area, though I'm not sure it's in the same house. Etta has been waiting for her young man to return from WWII. They have plans to be married and settle down to raise sweet children. Isabel is a loner. She took care of her parents until they died and her only brother lives across the country with his family. He has been encouraging Isabel to get out more or perhaps sell their childhood home and move closer. Isabel is an artist who creates dolls. She has a studio in her home and she's recently been told that her work will be exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's her life's dream and she's very busy trying to get ready for that show. Into the lives of both of these women comes Gerda, a doll that might or might not be haunted in some way. Certainly, things are about to change, not necessarily for the better. And that's all I'll say about the plot.
I've been talking a bit with J. P., the author, as she's commented on my blog here and others as well. I was pleased when she did a guest post a few weeks ago about 'taphophilia', a very interesting topic it turned out. Now I know what she ponders as she walks through her Vermont woods - all sorts of Gothic things. Ha! I liked the duality of this story and figured out a few things, but not all. I also liked the info about creating dolls and decided that the research involved must have been really involved and also fascinating. So, will I read more of her books? Definitely. This one get two thumbs up for spookiness!
Some secrets are better left buried…
In 1944, Etta Hayes is nineteen and over-the-moon in love with her recently returned soldier. She dreams of having babies, a little house and a white picket fence. But the doll her fiancé brought back from overseas casts an eerie shadow over their lives. As she digs into the doll’s past, Etta learns the horrible secrets it contains. Secrets she wished she’d never gone looking for.
When present-day artist, Isabel Joven, receives a mysterious vintage doll, she’s intrigued. But then sinister things begin to occur in her rambling farmhouse deep in rural Vermont. And Isabel begins to question every truth she’s ever believed.