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Burntown: A Novel Hardcover – April 25, 2017
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"Killers of the Flower Moon" is a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history. See more
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“McMahon’s latest is bar-raising. . . . . A stunning genre blend of thriller and fantasy.” --Booklist
About the Author
JENNIFER McMAHON is the author of eight novels, including the New York Times best-sellers Promise Not to Tell and The Winter People. She graduated from Goddard College and studied poetry in the MFA Writing Program at Vermont College.
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Top Customer Reviews
Most chapters are named for various characters, a technique that usually doesn't work well for me, mostly because at my age I tend to forget who's who rather easily. It didn't matter a whit here, though - testimony, I think, to the author's ability to make each character unique and memorable as well as leave written breadcrumbs, if you will, that make the whole thing easy to follow. Early on, a 10-year-old boy named Miles Sandeski watches as his mother is murdered - a crime for which his father is charged. Miles knows better, but he's so young, and the story he tells so absurd, that no one believes him.
His father had, however, told his young son of plans he'd hidden for an ultra-dangerous secret machine that was never built - thought to have been stolen from the workshop of Thomas Edison. Miles found the plans and managed to heed his late father's warning until he was a grown man - a teacher, musician, inventor, husband to wife Lily and father of two children: A son Errol and younger daughter Eva.
The inventor in Miles takes over his better judgment, and he builds the machine in the family's shed in back of their house on the river. Then one day, the unthinkable happens: Miles drowns in a flash flood, leaving Eva and her mother homeless. Eva, who nearly drowned herself, never really believes her mother's claim that the machine is responsible for her father's death.
Everything from that day forward is considered "After the Flood," and because Eva's mother insists someone known as "Snake Eyes" is out to kill them, she and Eva take to the shadowy streets below the bridges of thriving Ashford, Vermont. Now called Necco (after her favorite candy as a child), Eva and Lily live in an underworld populated by "fire eaters," or women who live off the grid at the river's edge and are known for inhaling herbs called the "devil's snuff."
Then suddenly, Lily dies - an apparent suicide - forcing Necco to survive on the streets any way she can. Along the way she finds a boyfriend; just as he is about to reveal what could be clues to her past, he's murdered in the junk car in which they've been living. Now alone, she meets Theo, a talented high school senior who owes a potload of money to a man willing to kill to get it back, and Pru, a seriously overweight lady who serves up food in a school cafeteria by day and puts a whole new spin on night life.
As these intriguing but incongruous characters come together in a tenuous, I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine sort of relationship, so do details of Eva's life Before the Flood. Several twists and turns later, Eva (and readers) finally learn what really happened. All I can say without giving away too much is this: If you start this book, get cozy for at least the last hour or so - from then on, you won't be able to put it down.
Many thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read an advance review copy.
Now, I really hate critiquing stories because I know how hard authors work for their stories. So I apologize if this review isn't the best. But this won't deter me from read future books by the author because I truly love her work. Also, just because this novel didn't fit me doesn't mean that other readers won't love it. After all, it is written fantastically and does hold a great amount of mystery and intrigue within the story. I promise, you will not be able to guess who is behind the mystery until it reveals itself.
Overall, this is a decent book, just not my favorite. Fans of the author and those who enjoy mysteries and thrillers may really enjoy this one. So make up your own mind and don't let my review (0r others) deter you from picking up a new novel.
The story takes place in or near Ashford, Vermont, a used up old mill town. It is a murder mystery, a thriller, a drama about living in a burnt-out town, a circus story, and then there's more than one supernatural slant on the story.
I read THE WINTER PEOPLE by the same author and enjoyed it a lot (I rated it 5 stars) but felt let down by this book. I probably would have given this tale 3 1/2 stars if possible so it wasn't all bad. It rambled, changed timeframes and narrators too often. There were definitely some good parts, especially towards the beginning, which kept me reading but it lost its way somewhere along the line.
I received this book from Doubleday Books through Net Galley in exchange for my unbiased review.
It’s not a simple whodunit--I was guessing at the story up until the end. When there is a combination of unusual elements such as devil’s snuff, snake eyes, fire eaters, the circus and a machine that does unbelievable things, you can bet you are in for an interesting story.
I thought Burntown was suspenseful, fun to read and a bit magical. It’s a great escape read and a great pick for those who love a good mystery and magical realism.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for allowing me to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.