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The Returned: A Novel Paperback – April 7, 2015
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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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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Anton Chabou stood on the dam and watched the still water. The first time he'd seen the lake, eleven months before, low clouds had flowed slowly down the valley to cover the water's surface. They had rolled onward, over the top of the dam, like the ghost of a waterfall, heading for the town below.
Now, an hour after the sun had gone down, the air was clear. The lake's surface was like black glass. Behind him, occasional cars drove by. The dam acted as a bridge for all but the heaviest vehicles, the fastest route out of town for those heading north and prepared to make the climb up the steep valley-side roads. He'd even seen a young woman crossing on foot earlier, shortly before he'd left the control room. It was a rare sight. Most people who wanted to savor the view came by car.
His phone was in his hand. He didn't want to make the call, but he knew it had to be done, even if he was the new guy. Eric, his partner for the shift, had been on the job for ten years, and Eric had shaken his head, muttering, wanting nothing to do with it.
"Wait until the shift change," Eric had said. "Act like we just noticed it, and let them make the call." Then Eric had sat in the control room, storm faced, refusing to discuss it further.
Anton had already made the preliminary checks required of him, before raising it with Eric. A remote visual examination of the abutments showed no sign of seepage, and the flow measurements seemed correct. Getting a better idea of the current water intake would be necessary, but even if every source of water into the reservoir had done the impossible and conspired to stop, they simply weren't taking enough water out to result in the fall he'd seen since coming to work that morning.
The lake was emptying, and he had no idea how.
As the senior engineer on the shift, Eric's advice to wait almost amounted to a command, but it was advice Anton knew he would have to ignore. He had spent the next hour satisfying himself that nothing obvious was wrong. That meant taking the central maintenance shaft down to the upper and lower inspection galleries.
Gallery, he'd always thought, was an odd word for what was really just a cramped, gray, circular tunnel running through the structure of the dam, sickly lighting strung along one side and barely enough room to stand. He had to keep his head down to avoid constantly scraping his hard hat on the cold concrete above.
By the time he'd walked the upper gallery, his neck was aching and his mood was sour. But he'd bitten his lip and gone down, down, to the lower gallery. In theory, the lower was indistinguishable from the upper. The same restricted space, the same weak lighting. The same cold gray. But every time he went down there, it made him claustrophobic in a way the upper gallery never did. He was somehow vividly conscious of the weight of the water above him; reaching the end of the tunnel and turning back, he always had the same image flash in his mind of dark water rushing toward him, icy and vengeful.
His impromptu inspection revealed no problems. The next stage would be to log the measurements on each of the ninety expansion strips throughout the galleries and compare them with the last recorded values, normally a weekly chore that took up most of the shift of whoever drew the short straw. He would go down again and make a start on it, once he'd had a break from the confinement and a little fresh air.
Once he'd made the call.
And so he was back at the top of the dam, phone in hand. He hunted for the number he'd been given almost a year before, when he'd first taken the job. The breeze picked up, suddenly bitter, but he preferred the dry sharpness to the damp chill of the tunnels below, a chill that got deep into your bones and was hard to get rid of.
"Yes?" said a man's voice.
"This is Anton Chabou, sir. The water level is dropping. We can't account for it."
For a moment, the voice stayed silent. Then: "You're sure?"
Anton was about to give a typical engineer's response: explain the possibilities that remained, explain the procedures they would follow to fully assess the integrity of the dam. But the voice knew all of that. All he wanted from Anton was a single word. Yes or no.
"Yes," Anton said.
"I'll be there within two hours."
"There's a chance it could just be..." Anton started, but the man had already hung up.
Anton put his phone in his pocket, readying himself to go back down to the galleries and begin taking measurements. Feeling cold, he stamped his feet and moved around, trying to rid himself of the chill in his bones. It made little difference.
He stared out across the lake and thought about what lay underneath. He thought about what he'd been told officially when he took the job and about what he'd heard in the months since-rumors, inconsistent, conflicting. He thought about what he believed.
Shivering, he started to descend.
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Top Customer Reviews
I've heard people say you can just watch the TV series. I want a book!!!!
LOVE the suspense, the characters are very well developed and you sort of fall in love with one or two of them. But the ending. Argh! Grrrrrr.
At first the book pulled me right in, it was creepy with dead people coming back just as they were when they died. Not mangled, I mean age, etc. I think it was like 30 years since they were dead.
I don't know what happened but it started getting a little confusing closer to the end and I'm not even sure what was going on with the evil priest. Maybe I missed something, I don't know.
The ending was sort of a dud or maybe I missed the significance in it as well.
I really love the idea of the book and the creepiness it had to it, I just wish I could have figured out what really happened at the end. I read it a couple of times but I don't know.
It's still good enough to read and I'm sure someone could explain a few things to me if they read it :)
Patrick starts out well enough. He captures the atmosphere of the reactions one would have when someone who had died 'returns'. It combines the right amount of creepy and in many cases stunned hope. Patrick gets the balance right -- the unsureness of it all and the emotional maelstrom that results.
But the book is a bit long. The ending seems really flat and for the length a disappointment. There is room left for more and I don't know that the topic needs or deserves it.
For anyone (like me) who hasn’t seen this show, it is based on the second novel by author Seth Patrick. In an otherwise uneventful town, on a random day, people start returning from the dead. They show up as if they never left, having no memory of ever dying, looking as they did on the day they died. Families are reunited and community members are both skeptical and overjoyed. However, questions remain- how long are the “returned” back for? Where did they go when they passed over? Why are they back?
Now of course this plot line is extremely familiar, especially as of late, with novels like Perrota’s “The Leftovers” and television shows like Resurrection. So it will not really hit you with anything you haven’t heard of before. But the thing with “The Returned” is that it doesn’t dwell into the unreal- you aren’t faced with complicated plot twists like alien abductions or alternate realities. The only thing that a reader may put some thought into is, of course, the religious speculations that run rampant through the novel. Which of course, makes this novel about as reality-based as you can get.
There are many characters in this novel, but they are all very unique and quintessential to the plotline, so the story is easy to follow and all of the protagonists are likable and personable (well, okay, most of them). The writing is intelligent and Patrick writes with a great deal of emotion. The ending leaves a lot to be desired (like, maybe a sequel?) but it is not overly disappointing. Patrick has a lot of unsung talent and I for one will be keeping him in my radar!