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A special thank you to Random House/ Alibi and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Following R. K. Jackson's debut, THE GIRL IN THE MAZE,(Martha Covington #1) a psycho-thriller of dark secrets in the small historic Georgian coastal town—with a mix of southern Gothic, evil, paranormal, intrigue, history, culture, and suspense . . . with the second installment in the series,KISS OF THE SUN.
Martha Covington returns and this time around, she is approached by an elderly couple for help finding their missing grandson which may be alive. She has no clue what she is stepping into.
From the first book, Martha has been diagnosed and institutionalized for schizophrenia. She hears voices—she is damaged goods. However, she wants to move on and try and get back to some sense of normal. Is she ready to join society?
She is enjoying her quiet life on the small Georgia coast with her Geechee neighbors, the direct descendants of slaves who had settled the island and formed an isolated community after the Civil War.
She had a deadline. However, she sees an elderly African American couple behind the screen door. They looked like characters from a 1940 vintage photograph in their Sunday best. A hallucination? She is always second guessing herself.
The couple turned out to be real and they were not from the island. Clarence and Martha, a nice couple who came from Palmetto—south of Atlanta and took the ferry over. They had heard about her practice. Of course, Martha was far removed from technology and did not advertise her services.
She explained she only does this sort of the as a hobby and a research project, after receiving a grant from the Georgia Council for Cultural Studies to write a book about the folk traditions of the Geechees. She was not a real root worker. Of course they had heard differently. She stressed she did not find missing people.
They have already been to the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Their grandson Peavy –had been missing for a number of years. A cold case. They had previously lived on St. Helena Island and had a root doctor, but he had passed. The police were of no help and she was the last resort. They even brought photos and other mementos from the boy, in a shoebox.
They had raised the boy. They had not seen him in six years. Someone was supposed to be watching him and he went out back to play baseball at a nearby park with a friend.. The only witness to what happened that evening was Peavy’s friend Jerome.
He had said the sun was going down and they were about to walk home when a car came through. The boy said it was a Buick sedan across from the park. They knew him by name. Peavy handed Jerome the baseball (which they have with them—making Martha shudder), and told him to wait. A white couple, maybe European with a funny accent. It was getting dark and Jerome decided to walk home and catch up with him later. A foreign couple. Peavy was not one to keep secrets. His mother was wild, but Peavy was different. He did well in school and wanted to become a professional baseball player.
Martha looked through the papers, and felt a chill—something familiar. The detective’s reaction to the case was odd they said. They seemed to not be trying very hard. The couple said they had heard she sees shadows of the past and they want to pay her. She is their last resort. She picked up the items and has a strange feeling.
Could she go to Atlanta? She will tell her therapist, Goodwin. She of course did not tell the couple about her illness. Her therapist does not like it. She already says that studying the mystical practices of an ancient, superstitious people is already a risk for her. She has to maintain firm boundaries between what’s read and what isn’t. She does not want her thinking she is some sort of psychic detective.
However, she knows she is compassionate. She feels she has to do it. Her therapist reiterates many people in her condition end up homeless or institutionalized. The island and its residents, the community support she currently receives have enabled her to do creative work.
Of course Martha dreams that the boy is closer than she thinks. She decides she will go to Atlanta, ignoring the warning from her therapist. A small act of rebellion. She will seek the help from Jarrell Humphries- they guy she met on Shell Heap Island. . . the now law student.
A trail of cryptic clues lead the two deep into a dangerous conspiracy whose members will stop at nothing—including murder—to protect their secrets. From investigations, bloodshed, the Organization, and the UNICOM murders.
A character-driven series of a young woman’s struggle to develop her journalism career while fighting the demons of mental illness—at the same time the setting on the Georgia coast also adds to the mystery.
The author definitely places his protagonist in compromising situations. Dr. Goodwin has to come through again to keep her out of trouble. I believe I liked the first book more than the second; enjoying the people, culture, and history- on the island. I found the first part of the book quite intriguing; however, the last half gets a little heavy; however, still filled with suspense.
For those fans who enjoy Southern Gothic and psychological suspense mixed with madness, research, history, and Southern culture.