LET ME DIE IN HIS FOOTSTEPS: A Novel –Lori Roy
The Penguin Group/ Dutton (Hardcover)
Browerton, Hayden County, Kentucky – 1936, 1952
1952- Annie Holleran is exactly fifteen and a half, and it is her day of ascension. At the stroke of midnight, when Annie looks down into a well, she will see the reflection of the man she is going to marry. Most girls go to the Fulkerson well, but not Annie. She has decided to go to the Baines's well, even though there has been a long-standing feud between the Hollerans and the Baines family since 1936 when Joseph Carl Baines was hung. The Baines haven't forgotten that it was Annie's Aunt Juna who was responsible for Joseph Carl's hanging. Even now, with all six of the other Baines brothers gone, they say old Mrs. Baines is still living on the farm, rocking most days outside with a shotgun on her lap.
But Annie has decided to take the chance. She knows she is not like her sister Caroline or most of the other girls in Hayden County. She alsoknows she has the know-how, and she knows that everyone in town and around it think she is the spitting image of her Aunt Juna, who she fears might be her real mother. So Annie doesn't want to go to the Fulkerson well like all the other girls do and have them all look at her and feel sorry for her. Annie decides to lie to her parents and sneaks off straight to the Baines farm, with Caroline trailing behind her. Caroline takes her turn looking into the well, and Annie does too. Disappointed, she turns back and stumbles onto a body. It's Old Mrs. Baines, Joseph Carl's mother. Her death opens up a myriad of questions that travel like wildfire all over the county--where is Juna now? Is she dead too? And who killed Mrs. Baines?
1936- Juna and her sister Sarah are the same age as the Holleran sisters will be in 1952. Juna has quite a few secrets of her own, and she has the know-how, too, but she seems to be a different sort than Annie. Her beauty attracts many boys, including some of the Baines brothers. One day, while Juna is babysitting her younger brother by the tobacco fields, they disappear. A search ensues, and a horrible crime occurs. Juna is the only witness, and after some time, her explanation of what transpired in the fields that day leads the County Sheriff to arrest Joseph Carl Baines.
With deft writing and irresistible creepiness, the stage is set for a wonderful novel with “Gothic” overtones and suspense. Lori Roy is not a novice writer; she has two earlier (and also excellent) novels which are period pieces as well. LET ME DIE IN HIS FOOTSTEPS is certainly complex; the novel flashes back to 1936 often, and there are many characters, not to mention two crimes, one which has supposedly been solved, and one which appears related. That said, the story moves at a good, brisk pace and did not confuse me at all. The second-sight aspect of the book is interesting and adds to the mood of the tale, which is quiet and secretive and haunting. The characters are all complex, even those that are meant to be simple, and many are just plain strange. Ms. Roy is a master at crafting a wonderfully dark and interesting atmosphere where the reader cannot turn the page fast enough but is left, at the end, with lingering tension, although all the questions appear answered. LET ME DIE IN HIS FOOTSTEPS is a wonderful novel that I highly recommend for those who like a little complexity in their stories, who don't need it all spelled out for them, and who like to read stories by authors who are wonderful at what they do.