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About the Author
"[An] unsettling thriller . . . readers will keep turning the pages."
"This stand-alone is a surprising but satisfying departure for genre veteran Benson, the author of multiple James Bond pastiches as well as the acclaimed Black Stiletto series. The novel offers a compelling meditation on lifelong friendship, love, and tragedy as it details the evil that destroys two families."
“A beautifully written thriller, filled with richly drawn characters, memorable dialogue, and a searing portrayal of a life-long friendship. Raymond Benson is a talented storyteller, and this is one of his best novels yet.”
—Alafair Burke, New York Times bestselling author of The Ex
"Raymond Benson pulls at the heartstrings in this tragic tale. Peppered with nostalgia, love, heartbreak, and melancholy, the narrative is profoundly entrancing and fast-paced. Part mystery, part reflective coming-of-age, The Secrets on Chicory Lane ensnares readers in its dense web, refusing to let go, even long after its jaw-dropping conclusion."
—TopShelf Magazine, five-starred review
"Where a novel lands on a bookstore shelf is defined by label: mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, literary. Raymond Benson’s The Secrets on Chicory Lane is all of those things, and a little more. . . . Benson sculpts perfect sentences and scenes, memories and emotions dripping off the pages. I found parts of myself inside it . . . snatches of my childhood, awkward bits from long years ago . . . . A damn fine book."
—Jean Rabe, USA TODAY bestselling author
"In a bold move away from the thrillers for which he’s best known, Raymond Benson offers readers a heartfelt and tragic tale. Across decades, the dark secrets on Chicory Lane shape and misshape the lives of all who live there. Benson, a master of suspense, has crafted a story as compelling as any thriller but with a depth of feeling few thrillers achieve. And the ending, I guarantee, will leave you breathless."
—William Kent Krueger, New York Times bestselling and Edgar award–winning author of Ordinary Grace
"The Secrets on Chicory Lane has a premise to envy: A killer and the girl next door meet one last time before execution day. How much do we know the people we have spent our lives with? Raymond Benson explores the nature of evil and how little chance we have to recognize it when we see it, or escape it, if we do."
—Lori Rader-Day, Mary Higgins Clark Award–winning author of The Day I Died
"Pitch-perfect characters drew me in; unrelenting suspense left me breathless by the end. Raymond Benson is a master storyteller."
—Molly MacRae, award-winning author of the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries
"A harrowing tale of childhood physical and sexual abuse, and descent into madness . . . If dark is your thing this well-written tale of a sad, wasted life will make you count your blessings."
—Mystery Scene Magazine
"A wonderfully written and heartbreaking account . . . as good a coming-of-age novel as I have read for many a year, but Benson’s skill as a storyteller doesn’t stop there. He delivers the poignancy and unbearable sensitivity of first love and sexual awakening. His account of how children escape from the shackles slapped on by their parents is masterly. . . . There is also a very clever murder mystery, which isn’t resolved until the last few pages, and then the resolution brings only heartbreak."
"The story is just so brilliantly written that you can’t finish one chapter without reading the next three, and so on and so forth. . . . A powerful novel of childhood trauma seeping into an adult’s psychology. . . . Tremendously moving."
—Anne Bonny Book Reviews --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B06ZXZ6SS3
- Publisher : Skyhorse (October 10, 2017)
- Publication date : October 10, 2017
- Language : English
- File size : 854 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 212 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #621,821 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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As Shelby heads for her appointment with Eddie, she reflects on the periods they interacted. Shelby's reminiscence begin when she and Eddie were pre-teens. subsequent encounters occur when the two are in their early 20s, mid-30s, and early 50s. With each reunion, we are drawn further into Shelby and Eddie's lives. Along with Shelby, we watch Eddie sinker deeper and deeper into an inescapable darkness. Secrets are revealed slowly with each meeting, climaxing in Eddie's final secret and the impact it leaves on Shelby.
Benson's writing continues to improve with each book. Here, his pace and approach are gentle, reflecting the tenderness of Shelby and Eddie's relationship. Benson captures voice nicely as she narrates the story. His approach is informal and conversational, as if Shelby is telling you her story over a cup of coffee.
Raymond Benson has delivered another winning book. I look forward to seeing what he has in store for us next.
Almost the entire book is a run-through of her memories with Eddie, from the time they were about 10 up until the current period. On one hand, there wasn't a lot of excitement, just a basic recounting of memories, many of which she breezes by. I think what keeps the book interesting is the author's writing style. It was light in some ways, but gave enough detail to give me a sense of being there. I was genuinely interested in reading more, but it wasn't the type of story where I was highly excited to turn the next page. It was slightly dark, but didn't get to bogged down in detail to bring me down with it. The heroines point of view also kept me engaged, she was likable enough, but not without flaws. I didn't always understand her attraction, but I can say that regarding a lot of real life relationships. She was smart enough when she needed to be.
Solid read overall, if a bit dark. Don't expect a happy ending, it's simply a sad story of how one life can turn out so terribly wrong as a result of tragic circumstances and bad decision-making.
Using first-person narrative, Benson avoids the mistake of tedious dialogue to maintain a taut and engaging page-turner. Shelby revisits her past both through memories recalled during a return trip to her hometown for the dedication of a local park named in Shelby’s honor. Her real reason for making the trip, however, involves visiting her former lover, Eddie Newcott, now on death row with only days to live. Childhood neighbors and best friends, Shelby and Eddie, were inseparable until a traumatic event pulls her family and Chicory Lane apart.
Benson delivers when it comes to crime and murder stories with a Texas Americana setting he first visited with his terrific novel, Evil Hours. Although known for his James Bond books, those were just a handful of Benson’s more than thirty-five publications. His two earlier series, Spike Berenger “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hits” and “Black Stiletto,” deserve consideration for new fans. Yet Benson has become quite adept at keeping his reader’s attention as he slowly pulls back the veil of evil residing just down the lane.
Top reviews from other countries
The story is just so brilliantly written, that you can’t finish one chapter without reading the next three and so on and so forth. When I did eventually finish the novel, I was wide awake and consumed by the intricate storyline and what I had just discovered about Eddie.
*If you are going to read this novel, I would advise picking a morning hour. Especially if you value your sleep.
The synopsis is very intriguing and straight away I wanted to learn about Shelby as a writer and as Eddies childhood best friend. I was desperate to unravel Eddie’s past and couldn’t read the pages quick enough.
What I read, was one of the most powerful novels!
This novel was my 75th book of the year so far and the 8th on my list of favourites of 2018. It really is THAT good!
The opening offers a glimpse into the world of a bestselling author and I loved that the protagonist Shelby was a writer by profession. She receives a letter via overnight mail from Limite, Texas. She knows from the envelope that it is from Eddie’s attorney Robert Crane Esq. She is instantly curious as to where this will lead. She has not seen Eddie in 20yrs and her previous attempts to help with his court case, were declined.
‘The thing is, I’ve always thought about Eddie. We go way, way back, to when we were children living in Limite’
Now here is where the novel hooked me! Eddie is an incarnated inmate on death row. He is imprisoned for a violent and heinous crime. A crime Shelby KNOWS, he committed. Shelby comes across as a rational, educated and mentally sound woman. So why does she care? What friendship from the past, could tie you to such a person?
I didn’t find this novel to be of any form a psychological thriller and by that, I mean that I never thought Shelby was misleading me or leading me into a huge twist.
‘Why the hell does Eddie want to talk to me?’
We learn that Eddie’s lawyer has exhausted all attempts to appeal and that Eddie is scheduled to be executed, in just four days. Shelby is actually already pre-arranged to be in the area for a park dedication. She agrees to meet with Eddie prior to his execution. So, begins an emotional rollercoaster of a journey.
As Shelby makes her way to the town of Limite, is also where she internally recalls her childhood with Eddie. This becomes the narration for the novel. It is beautifully written but is also haunting. After I finished the novel, I felt emotionally drained and will admit I shed a little tear.
Shelby narrates her story on Chicory Lane and what took place in the summer of 1966. A summer Shelby would come to learn the true depths of human pain and the parental blame game.
‘I truly believe that evil – with a capital “E” – visited my neighbourhood that summer of 1966. It slithered inside at least three houses that I know of, and set about destroying lives and delivering misery’
The unique bond and life long connection between Eddie and Shelby is played out over various eras. The 60s, 70s and 90s all add depth to the story. The social and moral ‘norms’ are relevant to the theme and plot. At times the innocence of childhood is beautiful to read. But the vulnerability to abuse both physical and psychological lingers over the children’s path into adulthood. This may have a ‘coming of age’ feel at times, but it takes a very dark turn. . .
‘We all knew that Eddie was guilty of murdering the woman he was living with at the time’
The nature of Eddies crime is horrifying. This is not a crime of passion or an accident. But when you begin to understand Eddie as a child, adolescent and young man. You see that there were early warning signs of a broken mind. During the trial Eddie is hailed as ‘Evil Eddie’ in the headlines. This is a town that has demonised, the once ostracised little boy. At the time of the murder Eddie is thought to have been off his meds. During the sentencing at court Eddie curses the jury with a satanic spell. This is NOT your average case!
Eddies lawyer reports that Eddie has always refused medical and psychiatric help from staff within death row. That he suffers from depression and anxiety and has retreated into his own world. Shelby organises a potential 4hr visit. But will Eddie talk to her? Will what he says make any sense, after years of solitary confinement?
We learn that as a child Eddie was cute, introverted and a keen art student. He is regarded as ‘weird’ by his peers and his only friend in the world is Shelby. Their young friendship blossoms into childhood love. I began to wonder if this was the only love Eddie had ever truly known? Did Shelby’s eventually rejection push him over the edge. What lead Eddie to commit the crime that shocked the world. . .
‘Evil Eddie made a statement for all the world to see’
Eddie grew into an eccentric young man. An outcast, a bad boy and a school dropout. Eventually he signs up to a career in the military, where he is swiftly sent to Vietnam. The relationship between Shelby and Eddie is on and off throughout the years. In one sense she watches Eddie struggle more and more with each growing year. She believes his service in Vietnam was a tipping point.
‘The experience pushed him further into darkness, and he came home a changed young man’
Despite the struggles Eddie has faced, with his family, friendships and social quirks. Shelby still insists the answers lay within Eddies psychology.
‘Eddie could not have been in his right mind when it happened’
Eddies mother was sickly during his childhood, his father was a bully and would regularly beat Eddie for minor infractions. The only person to show Eddie kindness in the neighbourhood, other than Shelby was Mr Alpine. Eddie would often venture to his residence alone. Mr Alpine is thought of as a local celebrity to the kids, as his brother is the towns major. What I wanted to know was why does Shelby refer to him as a monster?
After the death of Shelby’s brother. Shelby is blamed by her mother who struggles with alcohol and prescription drug abuse all Shelby’s adult life. Suddenly both of them find their fundamental relationships flawed. What does this mean for their future.
‘In many ways, both our mothers were similarly damaged’
The novel has some strong themes of mental illness. But it also covers the other various social situations that contribute to a decline in one’s own sanity. Imagine being the most hated and talked about resident on your street. Imagine every neighbour knowing your past, and the fact that your own father couldn’t stand the sight of you. Being mocked and ridiculed by the local children and knowing that no one truly cares.
Except Shelby Truman.
A powerful novel of childhood trauma seeping into an adult’s psychology. Shelby’s patience and understanding towards Eddie is true kindness and unconditional love. I wish more people in society, thought a little more like Shelby, than adapt a bullying/shunning culture labelling a person a weirdo and invalidating their life experiences.
Tremendously moving. 5* Genius
Dark sat times, but I couldn't put it down.
Highly recommend this novel ,5 stars!