Five Mile Houseby Karen Novak
In 1889, Eleanor Bly flung herself from the tower of Five Mile House after murdering her seven children. More than a hundred years later, her ghost reaches out to Leslie Stone, a New York cop who has killed a child murderer and is haunted by her actions. New to the town of Wellington-famous for its coven of witches-Leslie becomes obsessed with Eleanors story,… See more details below
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In 1889, Eleanor Bly flung herself from the tower of Five Mile House after murdering her seven children. More than a hundred years later, her ghost reaches out to Leslie Stone, a New York cop who has killed a child murderer and is haunted by her actions. New to the town of Wellington-famous for its coven of witches-Leslie becomes obsessed with Eleanors story, suspecting that the truth may be quite different from local legend. As she digs deeper, uncovering dangerous town secrets, her life and the lives of her children are put into peril. Is Leslie destined to suffer the same madness as Eleanor Bly?
"Deftly written...Ms. Novak tells a compelling story that moves along with a literary flourish and a few unexpected frights. It should be read late at night."-Cincinnati Enquirer
"A terrific ghost story and a fine first novel."-Booklist
"Novak has the reader on tenterhooks."-Publishers Weekly
"A breathtaking novel about crime, about coming to terms with ones history, about learning to give love and to accept it. The writing is beautiful. And this is a brilliant debut."-Frederick Busch
Read an Excerpt
I AM ELEANOR, AND I, like this house, am haunted. I died when I fell from this tower, that window. It is sixty-seven feet from the sill to the stone upon which my neck was broken. All a matter of record. Not recorded, not known, is that I died with secrets: one on my lips and another in my belly. Secrets because there was no one to tell. Not until Leslie. From the moment I first saw her, I knew Leslie Stone had been sent to me as rescue; she would hear my story and in turn relay it back to the living. Truth would get told, and I would be not forgiven but better understood.
Yet, it was apparent Leslie had brought her own ghosts to Five Mile House. Until those phantom voices quieted, Leslie could hear nothing else. I needed her to hear. And so I resolved to allow time to take her forward into destiny. What else was there to do? It had already begun.
I cannot lay claim to the exact moment that my story began, but Leslie recalls the moment of her beginning well. The memory of it runs in an endless loop of details, like the shadows of a magic lantern rotating against the wall.
It begins in a city, not far from here. It is morning, a few minutes after six. The August sun is a glare creeping up the window shades. Leslie is in the cluttered bedroom she shares with her husband, Greg. She is looking in the mirror, thinking again that she should color her hair, cover up the early gray. She straightens her cotton blouse and khaki skirt, and in her pocket the handcuffs rattle. She makes certain of her badge and the safety on her gun. She puts on theshoulder holster, and then the khaki jacket. The gun, a nine-millimeter Beretta, goes into the holster. The grip is wet because her hands are sweating. Already. They have an air conditioner in the bedroom window. It shudders and purrs like a refrigerated cat. Still, she perspires as though she has been running, full out, for a very long time.
`Hey, Greg,' she calls, `how high is it supposed to go today?'
`You don't want to know,' he calls back. Greg is at the breakfast table with his coffee and paper, his face shaved clean and his skin menthol scented. He is dressed for his work in blue jeans and a sports shirt. He turns a page of the paper and nearly knocks his coffee mug to the floor. He catches the mug and curses, softly. He hates the tiny kitchen, the cramped apartment, and so each morning he scans the paper for an opportunity, an open call for bids on a suitable property in a country location. The ones he likes he clips out and files. He is thirty-seven and he takes medication for his blood pressure. Greg calls himself an independent contractor.
Leslie comes into the kitchen, where Molly, age ten, is pouring cereal into a bowl for Emma, age four. Greg smiles at his wife and they banter over which of them has the worst of it: he in the sun all day arguing with the subcontractors, she in the car all day rounding up the subcivilized. They laugh. Their daughters sing about Little Bunny Foo-Foo, their mouths full of rainbow-colored milk. Leslie tells them to knock it off, to finish up, to go get dressed. It is a normal morning. The last normal morning.
Molly and Emma dawdle. Leslie shoos them along so she might have a few quiet minutes to talk with her husband. She sits down at the table beside him and runs her fingers over the clippings.
`Nothing new. Same old invitations to subdevelopment sprawl. I'd rather stick with city work than punch out suburban boxes and strip malls.' He closes the file folder. `The ones I'd really love to take on are always these arty historical restoration deals. A drywall and drop-ceiling guy like me would look like an idiot if I even tried to bid.'
`You took art history.'
`Art history was one of the courses I was taking when I dropped out.'
`So, fake it. Talk your way in and then prove what you can do.'
`Lie? Fine talk from a cop.'
`Okay, Mister Integrity. I'll keep my fingers crossed. I cannot believe how freaking hot it is.'
He lays his hand against her cheek. `You feel feverish. Maybe you're coming down with something.'
`Don't think so,' she says, pulling away from his touch.
Greg packs lunches for himself and the girls. He scolds, hurries them toward the door. It's his turn to take them to day-care. There is a last minute chaos of hugs, kisses, and instructions exchanged. Leslie waves to them as they disappear down the hall. They, smiling, look back. She will remember this image of them, again and again, in the coming months. Her family looking back as they disappear. She will remember this and weep until wrung dry of tears.
At half past seven, Leslie is on the subway in the crush of the rush hour commute. Another stop and more bodies push into the train. She grips the hand rail harder. The heat lies on her skin like wet wool. A short woman in a pink linen suit smiles up at Leslie with candy pink lips and tobacco-stained teeth. A noxious swirl of body odor and perfume fills Leslie's lungs, leaving little space for air. She has a headache. Out the corner of her eye, she sees something, someone she knows. Or thought she did for when she turns, the sense of recognition is gone. Odd. Now her head hurts even more, and she fixes her will on getting to the station house, to the bottle of aspirin in her desk drawer. What? There it is again, that feeling of awakened awareness. A `wait a minute, don't I know you?' chill sends ice winding down her spine. Leslie begins to look about in earnest: the smiling woman in the pink suit, a pair of teenage lovers kissing violently, the various blank stares of various blank faces. Someone, someone is close, coming closer, and all Leslie knows is that she must get away. The subway brakes engage with shrill fury as the train lurches to a stop. Her stop. Hurry. She elbows, shoulders, squeezes her way toward the door. The platform is crowded and the loudspeaker is blasting unintelligible static. From behind her comes a voice, a child's voice, distinct and bright.
`Is he here?'
Leslie spins around just as the graffiti-covered doors slide shut. The train shudders, and begins moving forward. All Leslie can do is stand and watch as the passing windows gain momentum, making all those blank faces one continuous blur.
Is who here?
She watches the subway rush into the darkness, its retreating lights like the red eyes of carnival demons. She walks toward the exit and climbs the steps up toward daylight on legs that feel mechanical, detached.
Leslie makes her way against the prevailing current of pedestrian traffic. The sidewalk glitters bone bright, and the giant buildings seem hunched closer to the ground as if trying to move away from the tyrannical sun. It is day eleven of a high pressure oppression, eleven days of marking silver lines of mercury in ascent, passing ninety, ninety-five, ninety-seven, ninety-nine ... No wonder I'm hearing voices, thinks Leslie weather like this makes the normally sane crazy and the already crazy really determined. She lifts the placket of her blouse off her sweat-damp skin and uses it to pump a bit of a breeze on to her chest. It is not quite five blocks from the subway to the station house. Her head is pulsating with pain. She walks faster.
Leslie reaches Homicide at twenty minutes after eight and heads for the vending machines. She thinks that from the sound of it, Homicide is getting pretty damn close to becoming its own source of business. Cops are yelling at suspects. Suspects are yelling at one another. Somewhere down the hall, a woman wails grief and fury in a foreign tongue. Telephones compete for attention. The air is thick with the singed aroma of burnt coffee. Central cooling is still down. The computers are still down. The vending machines haven't been restocked in a week. Sold Out. Sold Out. Empty. Leslie plugs a dollar's worth of coins into a slot and opts for a forlorn-looking sweet roll. It drops like a sugar-coated hockey puck. She picks it up by one corner of the murky cellophane package and shoves the whole idea into the first waste can she sees. You are spending far too much time in Homicide, she tells herself. No kidding? What was your first clue?
She has not been reassigned so much as appropriated. What with the budget cuts and manpower shortages, her responsibilities as a mediator on the Domestic Violence Task Force had devolved into the deceptively simple task of counting up the bodies and calling in the guys at the other end of the office. Putting her in Homicide was a genius move toward efficiency.
And efficient she is. Leslie has called in seven domestic deaths in less than ten days. Five of them kids. Three shootings: one accidental, two deliberate. Number four had been kicked to death for breaking a portable air conditioner. Number five, the most recent one, just yesterday, was a six-year-old who had tried to stop his mother's boyfriend from beating her. The boyfriend, annoyed by the interruption, had picked up the woman's child and tossed him out the window. Sixteen stories. The end.
Later, at the inquiry, the department psychologist will say the death of this little boy had been the trigger. Those in attendance will nod knowingly. Of course. Of course.
Leslie says good morning to her partner, Ross. He grunts a reply. She positions herself at her beat-up old desk, turns on the little oscillating fan she brought in from home, and begins writing up her report on the six-year-old boy. The pen scrapes and drags. The shapes it forms look in no way familiar to Leslie. She keeps writing. The fan is moving its round head, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. No. No. No. She turns it up to its highest setting because, although she doesn't feel as though she's crying, tears are dribbling down her face, and she can't seem to make them stop. The press of the fan's forced air helps to dry them before they drip from her jaw onto the blue ink of the report. She keeps trying to reread the words that have crawled from beneath her pen, but her eyes refuse to recognize any of them. She squints hard, but the blue loops and spikes are meaningless. Her hands shake. The phone rings.
Later, the doctors will tell Leslie if that call hadn't come right then, she would have most certainly shattered there at her desk. But the phone does ring, and like everyone else she works with, her response is Pavlovian. At the sound of the bell, she stops feeling and she goes to work.
Leslie takes the call. It's another one. She writes down the address.
`We've got another kid, Ross.'
Ross looks up at her from his pile of manila folders. He loosens his tie before tightening it again. She will remember that. The investigators from Internal Affairs will ask what she remembers and she'll tell them about Ross's tie. The stenographer will take it down on the transcription machine. She takes down every word Leslie says:
I know it sounds stupid, but that's what I remember, that dark blue knot moving down and then moving up. And then Ross asked me what the call was and I said the word but I didn't actually hear. There was a sound in my head, like a seashell sound, that made it hard to hear anything at all. Ross said something back that I didn't understand. He looked at me and shook his head. Then he grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair and said, `Let's go.'
I think that's what he said. That's what he usually says. Anyway, I got up from my desk and followed him out. There was this weird sense of not being attached to myself. It was like I was following myself as I followed him down the stairs. Does that make sense? I felt dizzy, really sick inside, as if I might vomit. I blamed it on the heat. It was so goddamn hot.
When we got to the parking lot I told Ross he'd better drive.
Ross just kind of stared at me. He knows how much I love to drive. He said something like `Jesus, Les, you look like bleached shit' something like that. He said that Jutzi would cover for me. But I said no, I was okay.
We got in the car. Again there was that feeling; it's so hard to describe. It was like I was still standing in the parking lot watching myself drive away. We drove and drove. I knew the address was only a couple miles from the station house, but it seemed as though we'd spent hours in the car getting nowhere at all. The heat, you remember how horrible it was. It was as if some vacuum had sucked up all the breathable air. I kept trying to inhale, but all I'd get was a mouthful of exhaust fumes. The sidewalks were full of people. One moment they looked normal, the next they were they seemed to be staggering, just trudging along with their heads down like zombies or something. Like I was watching a movie. I kept trying to focus on details, to see one of them as separate from the others, but I couldn't. They were just this river of deaths waiting to happen. At least, that's what I remember thinking. I couldn't save them. By this time my hands were shaking so hard I had to hold them still. Ross was talking. I couldn't hear a word he said.
We pulled up to the address, a small but classy residential hotel. Prewar, my husband would say. There was an ambulance farther ahead, but the paramedics were putting things away. Too late. We ran up the front steps anyhow. The doorman was giving a statement to a uniformed officer, and I heard how his voice shook. His face was wet, shiny wet, and his eyes were red. He pulled back the heavy glass door for us. The lobby was very you know anonymous looking, all polished wood and metal. It was all air-conditioned, cold and quiet. It always gets really quiet when it's a kid. I recall another uniform was speaking with the woman at the desk. She was showing him a book, and he was writing something down. I wanted to ask him what he'd found, but the elevator doors slid open and Ross said, `Let's go,' because that's what he always says.
We went up to the third floor. The hallway was lit by fixtures on the ceilings and the walls. I remember thinking that I don't like all these lights because it either throws shadows everywhere at once or cancels shadow out completely. It's crappy for surveillance because you can never tell from which direction things are coming. Anyway, I remember getting dizzy again, but it was worse this time. I felt, for a second, as if I was going to pass out. Half a second at the most. I think the pattern on the carpet was playing tricks on my eyes. It was sort of an off-white grid over dark green ... never mind, just an optical illusion. We passed by a lot of rooms. The doors were closed. I found myself counting ahead. 322. 324. 326. That door was open. Sunlight fell from the space where the door should be. Voices were coming from inside the light. I couldn't go in there. I had to go in there.
Ross went in first. That strange splitting sensation was back, and I ended up leaving a part of myself out in the hall that's bow it felt. We entered a sitting room with a couch and chairs and a television. The room was rigged with video equipment. There was a third officer. Young, just a baby, he had a little bandage on his chin where he'd nicked himself shaving. He introduced us to the man sitting in a chair with his face in his hands as the manager. Ross asked about the body. The officer tilted his head to the side, toward the louvered door to our left. The officer didn't want to look again.
`Let's go,' Ross said.
I went in behind him. The first thing I saw was more camera equipment. I was about to mention it to Ross, when I saw his back tense, his fists clench, as his body braced itself against the impact of discovery. `Ah, Christ,' he said, and moved aside so that I could see. And so I saw.
She was such a little thing, about four years old. She looked like do you have kids? Yeah, you know how the real little ones can just dive into sleep? One minute they're bouncing off the wall, the next they've disappeared into that deep, open-mouthed, end-of-the-world slumber? That's how she looked. I wanted Ross and me to just tip-toe away so we wouldn't disrupt her. Just tip-toe away. But we couldn't, of course. So much blood. So much, well, you saw the photos, didn't you? You saw what he did to her, didn't you? I was standing at the end of the bed looking down, seeing, just seeing.
My throat suddenly clamped down tight and I felt as though I were shrinking or the room was getting bigger, or both. I was seeing a little girl on a bed and the ... and then the child became Emma. It wasn't a momentary flash like the dizzy spell or a misplaced fear. I saw Emma, my Emma, dumped there like a ruined doll. I couldn't move. Ross was talking to me. I looked over and saw his mouth moving, but I heard only this dull, snoring buzz in my head, like an alarm clock I couldn't shut off. I looked back to the bed, still seeing, until Ross pulled me away, sort of steered me out of the room. He handed me over to the officer. He literally put my arm in the young officer's hand. Ross told him that Detective Stone was not well, told him to take her back to the station house.
`Listen up.' Ross put his hand on the back of my neck and squeezed hard; it hurt. `Listen. Les, I want you to get your stuff and go home. Go see your kids. Give 'em big hugs. Take 'em out for ice cream.' He held my neck, making me look at him, nothing but him.
I reached up and placed my hands on Ross's big, dark face. Kindness. I wanted to touch someone kind. I wanted to take that kindness with me, wear it like a cloak, carry it like a shield.
Ross glanced over at the uniform and then said, `That's not one of yours in there, Leslie.' He took my wrists and lowered my arms back to my side. `Not one of yours.'
`They're all mine,' I said, but I don't know if I said it out loud.
`Go home, Leslie.'
Go home? He didn't understand. I couldn't see the difference. I couldn't see anything before me except my baby ravaged and dead. Where could I go to not see any more dead children? The officer guided me out of the room and into the hallway, where I thought I would find myself waiting. No one was there. We went down in the elevator, across the lobby and out the door. God, it was hot.
The uniform led me along the path. He shouldered through the gawkers crowded along the sidewalk. He started yelling, `It's too hot to be standing around looking at nothing! Let's get moving, people! Nothing here to see!' The stuff we usually yell. They grumbled but started to break up. The officer turned back and nodded at me.
It is good to be able to do something, I thought, anything that helps. Poor baby.
He secured me in the passenger seat of his patrol car. Once behind the wheel, he reached under his seat, brought up a can of ginger ale, and offered it to me. I took it. He logged in on the radio very by-the-book as he pumped the accelerator and nosed the car into traffic.
He told me his name Rigby, I think it was. He tried to start a conversation. I said nothing, I only stared at the top of the soda, the little engraving that shows how to open the can. Pull up. Push back. It's funny what you remember.
He kept looking at me. I think he expected me to say something wise or comforting. Finally, he said it for me. `You never get used to it, do you?'
I lifted the key on the can. It opened with a crack and a pop. I'd done as I was instructed.
Then he said something like `At least they got the sick bastard.'
I remember feeling my head turn toward his voice. That sort of spurred him on, I guess, because he told me how the woman at the desk had seen the little girl come in with the suspect. He kept the place on a long-term lease, used it when he was in the city on business. Which meant there are probably other ... victims.
I closed my eyes, but the image wouldn't go away. Emma, brutalized, murdered, reflected back infinitely like a funhouse hall of mirrors. Except these weren't tricks of light; each and every one of them was real. They were all mine.
Officer Rigby was still talking about how they'd picked up the fucking predator on the platform, waiting for the train to take him back to his big house in the suburbs. He couldn't understand it. The guy had a wife, three kids of his own. Poor Rigby.
`Where are they taking him?' I asked him that I think it was just as we got to the station house.
`Here,' he said. `Detective Saunders probably wants to bring in the hotel manager and that desk clerk to ID the asshole. We'll just line 'em up, shoot him down.'
He pulled the vehicle to the curb, and said, `I have to be getting back out there. Hope you're feeling better.'
`Yes, of course,' I said. `And thank you,' I said.
Later, Officer Rigby will testify that yes, although she had seemed more stable at that point, the dullness of Detective Stone's voice had concerned him. If there had been time, he would have escorted her into the station house. If his own mind had not been so blunted by the murder and the heat, if he'd had more experience, he would have known to ask her to surrender her weapon.
She steps out of the car; the soda can falls from her hands. It hits the sidewalk with a thud and a gush of liquid. Leslie watches the can spin round and round like an insane little engine, until exhausted of its energy it roils away to drop into the gutter. Suddenly cold, as though in the midst of some private winter, she hugs herself and looks up at the opening, closing, opening, closing of the station house doors. She starts up the stairs.
Her colleagues speak and she smiles. To each of their questions, comments, puzzled expressions, she says only one thing: `Is he here?' No one understands what she is asking, so she moves on until she finds Detective Michael Jutzi, who is sitting on the edge of his desk, eyeing her in careful appraisal.
`Who you looking for, Les?'
`Is he here?'
Jutzi stands and comes over to the wooden rail that separates the detectives from the public. He runs his fingers over his mustache. `Ross called in. I'm supposed to haul your ass out the door and drive you home.'
`Is he here?'
`Interview Two. He's awaiting the arrival of his attorney.'
`Thank you.' She turns away, heading for the back of the building.
Jutzi jumps the rail and lands in front of her. `Let it go, Les. I called Greg. He'll be at your place before we are '
`Have I been taken off the case?'
`Okay, then let me have three minutes. Maybe I can get him talking before his attorney gags him.'
`Three minutes?' Jutzi grins.
`You can come in with me. Make sure I behave myself.'
He sucks on his teeth. `I don't know.'
`Do you really think I'd do anything to jeopardize a conviction here?'
Detective Michael Jutzi never has a chance to voice his opinion. In her deposition Leslie will state that the telephone began to ring. The squad secretary was away from her desk. No one else was around.
He raises a finger in her face, indicating she is to wait for his return. Jutzi runs for his phone, leaving her alone outside Interview Two.
She can see the monster, the shape of him, behind the wire-reinforced window in the door. The precinct is so short of personnel, they've had to leave him alone. So, he's in the cage. Good. The doorknob is old, heavy. It sticks. She lifts up and turns.
Leslie shuts the door behind her, pulling to make sure the catch is set. There is a long table and three sturdy wooden chairs. He's staring at her. A big man in a plum-hued polo shirt and shorts the color of wet putty. His face is thick, his expression clouded and mistrustful. He is perspiring; great heavy drops of sweat drip down his skin.
`I want my attorney.' His voice is plaintive, almost an adolescent whine.
`Of course you do. I thought maybe you'd also want to get out of there for a minute, stretch your legs. Have something cold to drink.'
He pouts. `So, what? You're the nice cop?'
Leslie laughs. `Maybe. Look, I'm one of the detectives on this case. I've got to start my paperwork. I need some basic info '
`I'm not talking to anyone without my attorney.'
`You want out of there or not? We're talking name and address, that's it. It can't hurt you any to come across as cooperative. The innocent are always cooperative, right?'
`Yeah. Okay.' He stands.
`Move back,' she says. She bangs back the latch at the top of the cage with one hand as the other dives into the pocket of her skirt. Her fingers close around the strangely cool metal teeth of handcuffs.
She has no idea what she is doing, yet it feels as though she's done it hundreds of times before. The cage door comes open. She slips inside. She whips the cuffs out of her pocket. One ring of the cuff closes through the rigid steel lattice on the door. The other closes about the frame. So fast. So slow. Click. Click.
`Hey!' he yells, and keeps yelling. Her gun is in her hand. She doesn't remember drawing it. And then Jutzi is shouting at her, and the cage door is rattling mightily. Click. Click. Jutzi is trying to get in. The monster on the floor beneath her is trying to breathe around his terror and the gun Leslie has rammed into his mouth. She's just trying to do something that makes sense. Click. Click. Nothing happens. Something's wrong.
Stupid. Stupid. Still laughing, she releases the safety as Michael Jutzi, behind her, unlocks the cuffs. The monster is cowering, pushing himself into the corner as Leslie takes aim. Aiming is difficult as she is jumping up and down. A happy little dance. It is good to be able to do something that helps.
Later, she will sign the paper stating the last thing she remembers of that morning, the very last thing, is Michael Jutzi, his voice coming toward her, his hand, so gentle, on her shoulder. He is calm and kind, saying her name, nice and low, talking her down, the way they were trained. Her arms relax. The gun lowers.
`Aw, Jesus ... Aw, Jesus.' The guy on the floor is wiping his eyes. This is what she says she remembers.
Leslie will sit fascinated by the motion of the stenographer's fingers two-stepping over the transcription keys. The fingers will stop, pausing, waiting for Leslie to finish.
The guy on the floor, the suspect, stated his belief that my behavior was his guarantee of release; he'd be back on the street by happy hour. Happy hour, those were his words. He started to laugh. He was right. I knew he was right, so I shot him.
Meet the Author
Karen Novak lives in Mason, Ohio.
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I haven't read a novel in a while, so when I was looking, I wanted something that would keep me turning the pages. This was a great selection. It was detailed just enough to make you wonder throughout , yet didn't tell you enough to ruin the conclusion. Leslie and Eleanor were both out to get answers, but both were destined for the same fate. The ending was favorite. I loved the unique style in the last couple chapters. The author intertwined the past and present with paragraphs, and at the end of each paragraph you were anticipating what was going to happen to Eleanor, and what was going to become of Leslie. I am sure that if you enjoy a book with current day witchery, drama, mystery, and murder, then Five Mile House is a book that will do no wrong!
I was really interested in this book when i first started it but midway through it became jumbled and a little too far fetched. I had a hard time liking any of the characters. Overall not my favorite read.
This book is definitly a page turner. It is a good mystery ghost story with an interesting twist.
Thrilling, entertaining, and pure brillance are the first words that come to mind after reading Novak's debut hit, Five Mile House. It was one of those books you just can not put down once you start, and I was delighted every minute of it. A good pick for story-lovers of any genre, I personally can not wait until the release of Novak's next book!
Typos galore and a jumbled and disorinting plot made this book an arduous read. Lot's of potential, poor execution.
When you read this book, be prepared to dive into a world that is dark and twisted. It is a page turner that keeps you reading until the very end all the while wanting to take the main character, Leslie, by the shoulders and scream some sense into her. I loved how the biblical history entwines with wicca, and other legends. It's worth the read!
Lots of twists and turns.
This book was okay, but moved kind-of slow. The very beginning was good and pretty fast-paced. Then, it slows way down after the main character moves to a small town for her husband's job. I could not get into the characters and the plot was too slow and spotty to hold my attention. There were some minor grammar/spelling errors that were probably due to the electronic scanning process, rather than bad writing. I just did not like this book. Maybe a different book by this author would be better. But, I cannot recommend this novel.
Tense police detective Leslie Stone relaxes in a comfortable marriage raising two precocious daughters. However, the homicide beat is tearing her apart, especially the killing of children. One day, Leslie snaps after another murder of a child. Leslie enters the cage where the suspect is detained and shoots him to death. Her sympathetic peers arrest her. She is acquitted based on temporary insanity, but is remitted to an institution to heal before returning home to her family. Leslie¿s spouse believes a change in environment will help Leslie recover. He accepts a restoration job in the small New England town of Wellington. The home, FIVE MILE HOUSE, is the place where a century ago, Eleanor killed her seven children before jumping from the tower. Leslie quickly hears of the local legend and some time afterward that a coven battles the Wellington family. Eleanor, a ghost haunting FIVE MILE HOUSE, believes her doppelganger Leslie will prove her savior when the war openly erupts between the Wiccan and the Wellington clan. Leslie and Eleanor narrate the story line until their lives converge at the surreal climax. The story line combines a mystery with a supernatural intrigue that works because the key players come across as actual individuals. The humans and even the ghost intermingle in a realistic manner with authentic motives (not that this reviewer can confirm what entails a genuine spirit). The unique tale will remind readers of The Sentinel (the movie not the comic book) while challenging the audience¿s beliefs on several planes. Karen Novak proves she is a terrific storyteller whose voice provides a fascinating cross-genre appeal. Harriet Klausner