Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ephron Raises the Hairs on the Back of Your Neck

Hallie Ephron, that is. Several years ago my friend Lesa Holstine suggested my name to Hallie Ephron as a reader for one of her new books, The Bibliophile's Devotional. From that experience I discovered Ms. Ephron's delightful blog that she shares with other crime fiction writers who are friends and supporters.

Later, I was honored to do an interview for the Jungle Red blog and then I had the opportunity to read the very creepy Never Tell a Lie. Imagine how pleased I was to receive an email from Hallie asking if I would read an advanced copy of her latest thriller, There Was an Old Woman. I saved it for my holiday time off because I was sure I would sit and read it in one or two sittings and I was right.

What makes Hallie Ephron's novels so unnerving is how she manages to unearth those fears that people least want to admit to, and then slowly, subtly, through story and character, confirms just why you are right to harbor those secret fears.

 Because I live in southwest Florida, a bastion of senior citizens in varying stages of health, I especially related to the fabulous character Mina Higgs Yetner. She's everything I want to be when I grow up! Still spunky, wryly humorous, and sharp as a tack at nearly ninety years old, Mina resides in an old but gorgeously maintained shotgun house built by her dad on a salt marsh outside New York City. Glorious views of the Manhattan skyline on one side and protected natural habitat on the other, make this spit of land an enviable place to live.

Oddly though, one by one, homes are falling into disrepair, their owners disappearing practically overnight. When Mina spots the ambulance next door, ready to make off with another one of her friends, she flies out front to get the scoop and receives a mysterious message instead. "Please, tell Ginger, don't let him in until I'm gone."

Ginger, a frazzled housewife who's at her wits end with her mom, and Evie, Ginger's sister, who creates exhibits for the New York Historical Society, and who wrote her alcoholic, irresponsible mother off years ago, have to come together to plan their mother, Sandra's, hospital stay and return to health.

Ginger insists it's Evie's turn to step up to the plate. Evie agrees to move into her mother's home, next door to Mrs. Yetner, to put Sandra's affairs in order.What greets her is astonishing chaos, filth, decay, and something more sinister that she can't quite put her finger on.

The tension builds slowly as the atmosphere oozes foreboding. Suddenly everyone wants to help Evie but why do they show up when least expected? Finn Ryan, an acquaintance from high school, who runs the local general store (though he's an attorney) has keys to Evie's mom's house. So, it seems, does the obsequious, much younger businessman from across the street. Mrs. Yetner's nephew Brian doesn't want Evie anywhere near his aunt even as the two women find they share mutual interests in the history of the area. So why keep them apart?

Paranoia manifests itself in both the characters and the reader. How easily  our confidence, our very foundation, can be undermined by insinuation or a misplaced document, a lost set of keys. When we are at our most vulnerable, whom do we trust?

Have I peaked your interest? Keep your eyes on the library catalog or your local bookstore's shelves. April is the release date. It'll be here sooner than you think!


Lisa May said...

Some of my favorite authors blog at Jungle Red - though I hadn't discovered yet when you were the guest - but I haven't read Hallie Ephron yet. This does sound very intriguing.

Sallyb said...

How serendipitous!

Hallie Ephron said...

Thanks so much, Sally! I have all fingers and toes crossed for this one. And don't all of us have good friends in their 80s and 90s and doing just fine (so far), thank you very much!

If anyone wants to read the first two chapters, go to my web site or my Facebook page (