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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Book Review: Devil’s Key by Elisabeth Graves

Devil’s Key
by Elisabeth Graves
September 8, 2016 
Publisher: Northampton House Press
284 pages

Lucy Fowler plans to spend winter break on an island off the coast of Florida, to finish writing her thesis. She needs one last interview with an elderly midwife. Lucy almost cancels the trip after she's assaulted on campus by a fellow student. But in the end she goes, hoping work will be therapeutic.

On remote, isolated Ibo Key, Lucy learns midwife Esther Day is now confined to a psychiatric ward. She also learns that there was once a thriving black community, Revelation, on the island. Its residents all vanished one night long ago. Lucy decides to write about the ghost town, but no one will talk about what happened. Eventually, she uncovers the terrible story behind the town's destruction. Esther's rival, Solange, once owned a mysterious book . . . a centuries old grimoire revealing the arcana of Obeah.

An odd little man tells Lucy the island is cursed. That every man, woman, and child on it will soon die. And she begins to see glimpses of the past. But by then she's stranded, trapped by a killer hurricane. To escape she must face her own connection to both the victims and perpetrators of a long-ago massacre . . . a crime so monstrous it invites the arrival of an evil old as time.

Lucy Fowler is a grad student majoring in folklore. During her winter break she is going to Ibo Key, to interview midwife Esther Day for her thesis. But before that happens, she is attacked and raped by fellow student, Timothy Carling. The young man is attracted to her, wanting nothing more than to ask her out, but is possessed by something that appeared as an old man, but at one point becomes something else frightening. Tim escapes, but is found dead in a rest stop restroom. Lucy still leaves for her trip, to show she’s handling her rape. Once at the island , she discovers weirdness abounding. She meets an African American woman, Eugenie Lee, at Esther Day’s house, who tells her about the island’s dark past. A past about the destruction of the thriving black community, Revelation, where now Eugenie is the only black person on the island. A past about Esther and her rival, Solange Koumari, and a curse.

Shades of Stephen King, if you like your supernatural scary and people that appear normal, but are hiding darkness in their souls, Devil’s Key is the horror novel for you. The smooth pacing and the author’s mastery over eeriness makes for a disturbing read.

I give Devil’s Key 5 sheep.

Pamela Kinney

About the Author:
LENORE HART, who also writes as ELISABETH GRAVES, is a fifth-generation Floridian. She grew up in a somewhat haunted house on a lake, near a small citrus-industry town close to Disney World, her first employer. A former wardrobe assistant, theme-park waitress, seafood-joint cashier, graphic artist, advertising copywriter, and forensic librarian, she likes to read the headstone inscriptions in old cemeteries in her spare time. She has published novels, short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. 

BLACK RIVER (Putnam) first volume in the "Dark Florida" trilogy, was her first novel as Elizabeth Graves. A sequel, DEVIL’S KEY, was released by Northampton House Press. Hart is also the author of WATERWOMAN (Putnam 2002, 2003; NHP new edition 2015) which was a Barnes & Noble Discover book. She also authored ORDINARY SPRINGS (Putnam), THE TREASURE OF SAVAGE ISLAND (Dutton, 2005), T. REX AT SWAN LAKE (Dutton 2006, a picture book co-authored with Lisa Carrier), BECKY: The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher (St. Martin's Press, 2008, 2009), and THE RAVEN'S BRIDE (St. Martin's Press, 2011, 2012). Her latest work is as editor of THE NIGHT BAZAAR: Eleven Haunting Tales of Forbidden Wishes and Dangerous Desires (NHP, February 1, 2017). 

Hart has received awards from the Florida Fine Arts Council, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Old Dominion University. She is faculty in the graduate creative writing program at Wilkes University, and also teaches at the Ossabaw Island Writers Retreat and the Norman Mailer Center. She lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with her husband, novelist David Poyer

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