"The thing about madness was, it just took so damn much energy, and it was so thoroughly tedious in the meantime." Master woodworker Rae Newborn knows madness intimately, with every bone, every pore, every particle of her being. At 52, with three suicide attempts, extended hospitalizations, the death of her husband and daughter, and a vicious attack behind her, Rae has come to Folly Island, far out in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, to rebuild her life by building a house:
She would pull herself together, she would go and rebuild Desmond's house, she would lift his walls and dwell within them quietly all the rest of her days. Everything that House was lay there waiting for her to take it up: House as shelter, House as permanence, House as a continuation and a legacy, comfort and challenge, safety and beauty, symbol and reality joined as one.
Bequeathed to Rae by Desmond Newborn, a great-uncle she never met, Folly Island is lovely indeed. But when Rae discovers Desmond's journal in the 70-year-old ruins of his house, she learns that Desmond had his own internal horrors to confront on the island. As she labors in solitude, her prickly nature deterring all but the most determined of her would-be neighbors, it's not just her well-being that's at stake. Rae must prove herself sane if she is to have any contact with her beloved granddaughter Petra. So when the "skin-crawling feeling of being watched" doesn't fade, she does her best to ignore it. But does paranoia have its roots in reality? And is Rae doomed to repeat her ancestor's tragic end?
So effectively does King weave together past and present--the shrouded history of Desmond's life and death on Folly, and the tense, dusty, exhilaratingly panicky account of Rae's wrestling with old demons and new timber--that the future seems less important than the author might have wished. In other words, the eventual unmasking of Rae's watcher pales in comparison to the gradual revelation of Rae herself within King's haunted and haunting narrative. But with such a strong character and such moodily lovely prose, readers shouldn't miss the denouement-driven trappings of standard suspense. --Kelly Flynn
From Publishers Weekly
Beautiful prose and intriguing characters can't quite save the confusing, and at times needlessly complicated, plot of this challenging psychological thriller, set on a fictional addition to the San Juan Island chain in Washington state, from Edgar-winner King. Talented, 52-year-old wood artist Rae Newborn suffers from severe depression, having survived several suicide attempts, as well as the death of her beloved second husband and their young daughter in a car crash. After being mugged by two strangers near her mainland home, Rae decides to wwork for healing by rebuilding the house called Folly that her great uncle, Desmond Newborn, constructed in the '20s as a way of mending his own war-wounded psyche. She capriciously dumps all her medications into Puget Sound, then lives in a tent while she digs and saws and chisels her way to bringing Folly and herself back to life. In uncovering and solving one murder, she works toward regaining sanity and--perhaps--love. While King skillfully portrays psychological illness, the book's sheer complexity of detail is overwhelming. There's more mass than the average mind can keep straight, and the passages about rebuilding Folly, especially, have a tendency to bog down. The denouement is a bit hokey, though definitely more attention-grabbing than all the rest put together. (Feb. 27)Forecast: Fans of King's Mary Russell and Kate Martinelli series will ensure strong initial sales, as will some serious ad/promo and a preview in each paperback copy of Night Work, currently on sale. This is far from King's best work, though, and may turn off some of her fans, leading to poor word of mouth and a weakening of sales down the road.
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