Shivaree by J. D. Horn is a 290-page novel of the paranormal published in 2015. I stumbled across this novel as part of an Amazon promotion which discounted the book and included an Audible.com accompaniment. I listened and read my way through the book for five hours on a Sunday morning. A fan of horror and crime, I am not a fan of vampires but this novel had so many twists and turns that I will give the genre a second look. The catchy title refers to a tradition on the first night following a wedding ceremony. This novel describes the tradition without any sexual vocabulary. When you read of the ceremony, you will see why that makes sense.
Corinne fell in love with Elijah during their shared experiences in the Korean War. When he was discharged and sent back to the US before Corinne, they continued to write as they planned to get married when Corinne returned home. This suited Corinne as she didn’t want to go back to her home, a place of secrets and possible crime. Elijah looked forward to the marriage also up until the time his former girlfriend, Ruby, returned to Conroy, Mississippi. She had run away from home but had been located by her father, the Judge. Kidnapped from California by her father’s thug helpers, she returned with a mysterious illness. When the Judge summoned Elijah to meet Ruby, Elijah knew that he still loved Ruby and marriage to Corrine would be a mistake. Ruby solved the problem by dying.
Except she didn’t really die. Perhaps she had not been sick but was only going through stages, begun in California, to transform into a vampire. Her seeming death was only a stage to what would happen next. Horn presents Ruby’s next acts, after her death, as a type of revenge. Ruby thought of it as revenge. In fact, Ruby was just an incarnation of evil. She enjoyed discovering skeletons in the closets of her acquaintances and using the secrets to demonstrate power over others. She had been doing so from the age of five. Most readers will not feel sympathy for Ruby. Her perceptions or misperceptions of why she is acting as she does after her death make a gripping action tale. Many of the characters Ruby terminates in grisly fashion probably deserved it. That is up to readers to decide.
In an author’s note, Horn describes the novel as Southern Gothic fiction and provides a warning to the overly sensitive reader. I saw little need for the warning. Some may be offended by the depiction of a Southern Lifestyle that formally divided the rights of white-skinned people from everyone else. The novel covers more than people of only one ethnic group. Sexual terminology is infrequent although when it exists, it is graphic.
This is a novel where I paid attention to the writing while simultaneously enjoying the content. I enjoyed a transition device the author used between the end of chapter twenty-four and the beginning of chapter twenty-five. I always like it when I must consult a dictionary for unfamiliar words. In this novel, I encountered “helpmeet.” It is not a typo, just an alternate spelling. Words totally unfamiliar to me were “tantalus chest,” “atelier,” and “bardo.”
Not every novel impresses me enough to have a favorite line. Without giving too much context, I want to quote this one which occurred late in the novel after a bunch of decidedly weird and awful things had happened.
“What is wrong with this place? What is wrong with these people?” Corrine said, not really expecting an answer. “It’s Mississippi,” Lucille responded all the same.” (p. 267).
Maybe that is what the author meant by possibly offending some readers.
I gave this five Amazon stars because I liked the complexity of the way multiple surprises appeared. It also reawakened my interest in paranormal novels. Even though I purchased the novel at a reduced price, it was good enough that I was not upset when I found I could have gotten it free through Kindle Unlimited.