Isabella Moon

Isabella Moon

3.6 28
by Laura Benedict, Renee Raudman

View All Available Formats & Editions

Two years ago, in idyllic Carystown, Kentucky, nine-year-old Isabella Moon disappeared on her way home from school. Is it just coincidence that Kate Russell, a young woman with no discernible past, arrived in town just months before Isabella’s disappearance? When Kate walks into Sheriff Bill Delaney’s office to tell him that Isabella’s ghost has

…  See more details below


Two years ago, in idyllic Carystown, Kentucky, nine-year-old Isabella Moon disappeared on her way home from school. Is it just coincidence that Kate Russell, a young woman with no discernible past, arrived in town just months before Isabella’s disappearance? When Kate walks into Sheriff Bill Delaney’s office to tell him that Isabella’s ghost has led her to the child’s hidden grave, he immediately views her as a suspect. Mystery follows mystery as a local athlete drops dead, inexplicably, on the basketball court, and someone close to Kate is viciously murdered.

The unsolved disappearance of Isabella Moon has been the biggest disappointment of Sheriff Delaney’s career. But he senses that Kate is trouble. As he investigates her impossible claims, he also uncovers a series of unsettling truths about Carystown itself. Behind his hometown’s genteel façade is a morass of lies and murder, drugs and destruction. And Carystown’s residents are about to discover that even though the past is buried, it can rise again–with a vengeance.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

At the start of Benedict's plodding debut, Kate Russell, a recent transplant to the sleepy town of Carystown, Ky., is convinced she knows where nine-year-old Isabella Moon, who has been missing for two years, is buried. Sheriff Bill Delaney is skeptical, especially after Kate admits that Isabella herself led her to the burial site in a dream. Even Kate's only friends, Lillian Cayley and her daughter, Francie, doubt Kate's claim. But Isabella's disappearance is only one of the secrets that lurk beneath Carystown's idyllic exterior. As Kate pursues the matter on her own, Delaney digs deeper into Kate's own troubled past in South Carolina. Soon after the town's intricate web of lies and the long-buried secrets of the Birkenshaws, Carystown's richest family, come to light, Kate finds herself in a fight for her life. A predictable conclusion, underdeveloped characters and implausible subplots make for a less than satisfying thriller. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Sheriff Bill Delaney's big disappointment was failing to solve the disappearance of nine-year-old Isabella Moon two years earlier. Coincidently, Kate Russell appeared in Carystown, KY, a few months before Isabella vanished. The sheriff didn't consider a connection until Kate appeared in his office one day and told him that Isabella's ghost showed her the location of the child's grave. Thus begins a complicated tale with numerous subplots and shifts between the past and the present, which creates a needlessly complicated story line. The listener is soon introduced to Paxton Birkenshaw and his mother, the town's richest family, and to Lillian Cayley and her daughter, Francie, who is having an affair with Paxton. Drugs, other deaths, and hidden identities all intersect in some way with Isabella's disappearance, and the conclusion alternates between predictable and jumbled, with a couple of loose ends. Renée Raudman performs with varying voices and accents, and she is equally adept with male and female characters. Her credible job helps, but it can't fix this morass of subplots that ultimately doesn't reach a satisfying listening conclusion. An optional purchase for larger libraries.
—Gloria Maxwell

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
A debut novel about a small town's murderous secrets and the woman who leads to their unraveling. Kate Russell abandoned her past to start anew in idyllic Carystown. Just when she thinks she's escaped, the ghost of Isabella Moon, a girl whose murder two years earlier remains unsolved, brings Kate to Isabella's grave. The discovery leads Kate deep into Carystown's secrets, while her own dangerous past threatens to overtake her. The otherworldly elements, namely Isabella's ghost, make for a poorly told campfire tale. The dead-of-the-night ghost scenes are cliched, lacking the thrill and chill of a successful murder mystery. As a whole, the novel is more plot-driven than character-driven, and even then it's no page-turner until another, more brutal murder occurs-this time involving someone close to Kate. Benedict tackles the gruesome and the disturbing without hesitation; however, Kate never takes shape, morphing from scared and meek to strong and vengeful without ever developing a personality. The most engaging scenes are Kate's flashbacks that unfold alongside the present story as both become increasingly sordid. Throughout, the text fails to provide motivation for Kate's actions, damaging the story's credibility. The same frustration occurs with Sheriff Bill Delaney. Presented as a major figure, he battles feelings of lust for and suspicion of Kate, as well as pressures to unravel the town's web of sex, drugs and violence. But insight into his character is erratic and the Kate-Sheriff relationship is neglected. Stock characters make up the rest of the ensemble: the wealthy, aging matriarch and her spoiled son, the drug-and-sex-addicted vixen, the wise, retired schoolteacher, theirreverent hippie, etc. The various ways in which they are involved becomes tiresome, and the conclusion lacks pay off. Full of ghosts and gore, sure, but only a good read for the gullible.
Newspaper - Paul Goat Allen
"The melancholic appeal of Benedict's first novel is deeply tied to her spot-on portrayal of small-town America and all its contradictions. An amalgam of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Peter Straub's Ghost Story,
this mystery/thriller will simultaneously tug at the heartstrings and scare the bejesus out of readers.
In a word: unforgettable."
--The Chicago Tribune
Newspaper - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"A volatile mixture of heavy romance, serious homicide, and the paranormal ...
Kate, with a sizzling and explosive story all her own, holds all the strands together."
--St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Read More

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.37(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt


Kate was surprised when the stern-looking young woman at the duty desk told her to take a seat instead of just asking her name and sending her on her way when she announced, in a voice she could barely keep from shaking, that she knew where they could find the body of Isabella Moon. Maybe it was the hesitant way she spoke, her purse clutched protectively against her stomach. Although there were deep shadows beneath her eyes, with her auburn ponytail and cashmere sweater and tweed slacks, she knew she didn’t look like a standard nutcase—she wasn’t coffee-splattered or disheveled, she wasn’t waving napkins with lipstick maps on them. She looked like a patient mother of young children (she had none), or perhaps a librarian (she was not). She looked trustworthy, she knew. But more than once during the bleak, endless hours of the previous night, as she’d waited by her window for the stubborn sunrise, her resolve to tell what she knew had flagged. If she was so filled with doubt about her own sanity, what right did she have to imagine that the sheriff would think differently?

She settled into one of the molded plastic chairs facing the wire- studded window that separated the waiting area from the sheriff’s inner office. Not wanting to look like she was staring, she tried to keep her eyes on the clock on the wall above the sheriff’s desk. She’d had no breakfast and her mouth was dry. A water cooler sat on a stand only a few yards away, but she was so nervous that she didn’t trust herself to cross the room.

Behind the glass, the deputy leaned over the sheriff’s desk, presumably telling him why she was there. For a brief moment Kate’s eyes met the sheriff’s, but she quickly looked away. She’d seen him on the street before, but not up close. Jessup County was prosperous, but not so wealthy that politicians spent campaign money on billboards bearing their photographs. She had voted for him in the last election not because she liked him or knew anything about him, but because the man running against him had brushed purposefully against her while they waited for their take-out lunches at the crowded counter of the Carousel Café. It wasn’t even so much that he touched her but that he had reeked of stale cigarette smoke.

As soon as she looked away from the sheriff—his eyes had been frank and curious, not at all dismissive as she’d feared—she regretted it. People who lie avoid eye contact. And she wasn’t lying. At least, not about this.

Most days, Sheriff Bill Delaney really liked his job. Given that Carystown was a county seat, he found himself spending more time than he liked in the courthouse, but it was the rare day that he couldn’t make his way home for lunch with his wife, Margaret, who was the director of the Cary-Lowe House, a museum in the historical district that bore her family’s name. Back before he’d made detective in Louisville, he worked hellacious hours that kept them apart nights. He would let himself into their apartment after his shift ended at 8:00 a.m. to find breakfast in the oven and a note on his pillow, but there was no substitute for Margaret herself, whose curved, soft body molded itself to his hands with an urgency that never ceased to amaze him. Now, even though he wasn’t much more than a tax collector with a sidearm, he couldn’t imagine going back to those lonesome, empty days.

The young woman on the other side of the glass seemed to have sharper edges than his Margaret. He’d seen her going in and out of Janet Rourke’s insurance agency and in restaurants with a local guy who worked for the timber company. There was a closed-in look about her, but she was a pretty thing, fine-boned and slender in the way of young women from the city and the junior matrons around town. He didn’t know for a fact how long she’d been in Carystown, and was only sure she was newer to the area than he was. Twelve years hadn’t bought him too much familiarity. He only had his job because the Lowes—Margaret’s family—had been among the first settlers in the area and Margaret herself was liked by the local pols.

“She seems all right,” Daphne said. “Looks a little stuck-up maybe.”

It was a very Daphne sort of judgment. Daphne herself bordered on the homely, but she bore her elegant name with bravado. How many times had he heard various town jokers refer to her as “Deputy Daffy” to her face? She was a quick sort who either gave it right back to them or made sure they knew she wasn’t in a mood to play. She was also a mean shot with her .45 Glock. With the exception of Frank Skerrit, an ex-Marine who was his most reliable deputy, he would rather have Daphne at his side in a shoot-out than anyone else. He was particularly leery of the younger ones who only went to the range when their annual qualifications were coming up. Plus, Daphne was built like a truck, and her narrow, hooked nose and seemingly permanent scowl meant that only the drunkest of her charges were distracted by the fact that she was a woman. Margaret liked to say that Daphne’s infrequent smiles were like “sudden rays of sunshine in a tornado.”

“Go on,” Bill said. “Bring her in and get us both some coffee. She looks like she’s had a rough one.”

But instead of going straight for the coffee, Daphne stood up to her full five-two height and looked to the ceiling and sighed.

“Please, ma’am,” Bill added.

The case of the missing girl was still open but had been on the back burner for most of the last year for an almost complete lack of evidence—lack, even, of a body. It was his personal opinion that the child had run away. She had a crazy hippie for a mother and lived in a kind of commune without any other kids around for all of her nine years. But of course the woman on the other side of the glass probably had no idea how things stood. He just hoped that she wasn’t going to tell him she was some kind of psychic. He had zero time for that kind of bullshit.

Isabella Moon’s disappearance almost two years before had filled the town with satellite trucks and frantic reporters, male and female, trailing grubby young men with shoulder-mounted cameras and racks of bright lights. He had grown weary of their changeable faces and instantly sincere smiles. Far stranger, though, was the small collection of earnest amateur psychics and healers that had shown up in his office. Several of them eventually drifted over to Iris’s Whole Foods and Tea Shoppe to congregate after Daphne put them in their places, one after the other. A couple had never left town.

It was a damned shame that the child had never turned up, dead or alive, but he sure didn’t miss the circus that had engulfed Carystown for weeks. He wasn’t looking for it to return, ever. But he decided there was no reason to give this woman a hard time. She was good-looking, and they did have to live in the same small town.

Finally seated across the desk from the sheriff, Kate accepted the paper cup of coffee from Daphne with a grateful “Thank you.” She hadn’t even bothered to ask for decaf, as she usually would. Her body felt hollowed out. Anything warm would do. She was sure that she would never sleep again anyway.

As she gingerly sipped the strong brew, the sheriff sat back down in the chair from which he had risen to greet her and motioned to the delinquent tax roll printouts on his desk.

“Funny how no one wants to pay their taxes,” he said. “But just let the county miss one garbage pickup and they’re lined up from here to Sunday.”

Kate thought to say that death and taxes are the only sure things in life, just as she’d often heard her grandmother say. But then she remembered why she was there.

They sat in silence for a long minute. The telephone on Bill Delaney’s desk buzzed once, startling them both into brief, nervous smiles, but Daphne was quick to pick it up at her desk. When the sheriff got up to close the door, which Daphne had left open a few inches, Kate relaxed a bit. She’d wondered if the deputy left it open on purpose.

“It’s been a long time since anyone’s come forward with information about that child,” he said. “Several months anyway. Folks have lost interest.” He absently crossed a line through a dead woman’s name on the tax roll. “I’m guessing we fielded ninety, a hundred calls a day from all over the country when it first happened. A couple came in from England. You can imagine they weren’t much help. More of a novelty for Daphne.”

“It was strange to see the town on the news everyday,” Kate said. “But it never actually looked like Carystown on television. It was like they were talking about somewhere else.”

“We had a couple movie agents and such interested, thinking the story might sell, I guess,” Bill said. “In the end, there didn’t turn out to be much of a story, did there?”

Kate shook her head. “No. I guess not.”

As Bill leaned back in his chair, it made a painful squeak. “How long have you lived in Carystown, Miss Russell?”

Kate took a deep breath. This was more like what she had expected. If he believed her at all, he was sure to look at her as a suspect first.

“A little more than two years,” she said. “I have a house south of town near the old candy factory. It’s an antique mall now, but everyone still calls it the candy factory.”

The wind still sometimes carried the scent of chocolate through her windows. It had been on just such an afternoon that she’d rented the house after living in an inexpensive motel out near the highway for a few weeks. The factory building hadn’t yet been converted when she moved in, but was just a cavernous brick fortress with boarded windows, fronted by a long, crumbling porch. Such a vast emptiness so close to her house had overwhelmed her in those first months, but the smell of the chocolate was something of a comfort. And in those early, alone days, she had needed it.

“Best peppermint sticks in the country,” Bill said. “Never cared much for their chocolate stuff. Moved the operation down to Mexico about five years ago. Too bad.” He shook his head.

“We get a lot of tourists in for the antiques,” Kate said.

“Ah, yes, the tourists,” Bill said with apparent distaste. “So, have you ever been to Mexico? Is that a travel agency you work for?”

Kate wondered how long he was going to play with her. She was sure he’d want to hear what she had to say.

“Insurance,” she said. “Janet Rourke’s agency.” She looked at her watch. “I should be there now to open up. Janet had a breakfast meeting.”

“Good Rotarian, Janet. Assertive,” he said. “Gets things done.” What Janet Rourke really was was a bitch on skates. But he guessed that his opinion wouldn’t be a surprise to this young woman. “You from somewhere south of here, Miss Russell? Alabama, maybe? Georgia?”

Kate straightened in her chair. “I lived in South Carolina for a long time. Around Charleston.” It was enough of the truth. Just because he was some kind of policeman didn’t mean that she could trust him. “But this isn’t about me, Sheriff,” she said, knowing she was breaking one of the cardinal rules of southern conversation. One didn’t blurt out one’s business right off, one was supposed to come around to things gradually, delicately, give everyone involved time to know exactly who stood where on a subject. There was a lot of courtesy involved. Only Yankees came at things straight on.

But it had taken her so long to come to the decision to speak to someone, someone who might be able to help her, that she just wanted to get on with it. The girl was dead, yes, but she was hardly resting in peace. She seemed almost as alive to Kate as in the weeks before she disappeared two winters before, when she’d occasionally walked past the agency in her bright yellow coat and red snow boots. Isabella Moon hadn’t been an extraordinarily pretty child, but Kate had noticed her (thanks to the coat, probably) and wondered at her careful, self-possessed way of walking, as though she were much older than she appeared.

The suffering of the girl’s mother also caught her attention, and disturbed her. She had seen Hanna Moon on the news and, more frequently, on the streets of Carystown. Hanna Moon looked lost to her, and, somehow, more childlike than her daughter had been. Truth be told, she looked a little crazy. Even in cold weather she wore colorful, loose linen dresses of the sort favored by the women of the area’s hippie community and woven sandals. Her thick black hair was often twisted into a braid that hung down to her waist and tied with a ribbon, just as her daughter had worn hers in the photo that had been reproduced and taped into windows and nailed to telephone poles all over town. Sometimes Hanna Moon appeared to be talking to herself, or, at least, to someone who wasn’t there.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Isabella Moon 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Jennlvs2read More than 1 year ago
I have to agree with the Not Impressed reviewer below... The ending was rushed. I didn't think the characters had enough depth, I really didn't care what happend to them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Carystown, Kentucky is a charming village with a country setting and quaint antique shops. But beneath its idyllic surface lies a world of trouble. The arrival of Kate Russell, a young woman on the run from an abusive past, is the catalyst for the exposure of the town's nasty secrets, and it isn't long before people are wishing she would just go away. Kate receives help from an unexpected quarter, however: the ghost of a child who disappeared two years earlier. A fine narrative flow, whose shifting points of view add to the enjoyment of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book; the first I read by this author. Just enough mystery, suspense and other-worldly characters to satisfy everyone. Wasn't too happy with the ending......but it all makes sense. I would recommend this book for anyone who likes suspense with a twist.
cb5720 More than 1 year ago
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys thrillers. I was intrigued right up until the end. Great suspense writer.
BrookeMel More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book. Spirits, murder, small town, a great sheriff and his relationship with the other characters kept me wanting to get back to the book to see how it ended. The ended was odd, the great story stopped and the short epilogue started and ended. I was a tad disappointed in that. I would read more of Laura Benedict's books.
flashlightreader17 More than 1 year ago
Laura Benedict really knows how to tell a story. I read a lot of mysteries and I have to say she has a talent for making the plot interesting while keeping a very intense atmosphere. great read for weekends and stormy nights
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book until the last 50 pages, then it just got dark and depressing. I was very disappointed in the way all the characters were wrapped up, and will not read anymore from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book should NOT be on the Christian Thriller list as it contains bad language.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book actually gets no stars, since I couldn't get it to open past page 17. The file must be corrupt.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
paintr More than 1 year ago
This is another book I had a difficult time putting down. There wasn't a bunch of filler words! Almost every page and sentence had a point, and from the beginning it got right down to the point. Perfect for a chilly fall weekend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
ISABELLA MOON by Laura Benedict is a hearty character driven plot, filled with surprises. The reader is drawn into the fishbowl lives of the townspeople of Carystown, Kentucky¿a community embroiled in secrets, unexpected sexual liaisons, and deep betrayal. But the biggest secret of all is the disappearance of 9-year old Isabella Moon two years prior. Like a domino about to be tipped, finding the missing girl jumpstarts this compelling plot. And the author wields an intriguing voice that beckons with the subtlety of a whispered secret, yet she holds the reader with unexpected plot twists and images that linger long after the last page is turned. Benedict paints an atmospheric and supernatural world with a noir feel to the crime fiction elements of this story. A wonderful read that I recommend highly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In a remarkably rich first novel, short story author Laura Benedict puts a complex spin on the secrets of a small Kentucky town still spooked by the unsolved disappearance of a child two years earlier. When the ghost of nine-year-old Isabella Moon leads newcomer Kate Russell to her hidden grave, instead of bringing closure to the town, the discovery unleashes suspicion on Kate, who has secrets of her own and attracts danger to those who befriend her. This supernatural thriller, written with a literary flair, feels like a lesson in real life because justice does not always reign. The guilty are not always punished. The innocent are not always saved. Readers hankering for happy endings are better off sticking to fairy tales because this dark debut will haunt your mind each time you turn down a lonely country road.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Isabella Moon is a gripping tale of suspense, lies and murder. A story that shows you that no matter how hard you try and bury the past, it can always come back. Laura Benedict spins a plot full of twists and turns that will leave the reader begging for more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Isabella Moon is a fabulous read. Laura Benedict has a fresh, strong, and unique voice that reaches out from the page and sucks the reader in on a breath taking ride. The characters leap off the page and the plot twists and turns make it impossible to put down. A page turner from start to finish.
harstan More than 1 year ago
It has been two years since nine years old Isabella Moon disappeared and the failure to resolve the case eats at Sheriff Bill Delaney. Rationalizing that these things do not happen in quaint Carystown, Kentucky fails to lift the despondent law enforcement official. No one is more surprised than newcomer Kate Russell when she sees the ghost of Isabella she follows the spirit to the spot where the little girl was buried. It takes tremendous will power for Kate to inform Bill what she saw as she has dark secrets that could lead to her arrest. Initially Bill assumes Kate is a flake, but he cannot get her statement out of his mind so reluctantly he digs at the spot she mentioned and uncovers the corpse. Clues lead to Paxton Birkenshow, a blue blood with plenty of money. He is seeing Kate¿s best friend Francie, a black woman who does not want their relationship made public as her mother believes he is weak. Paxton and Kate mutually despise each other, but she has other woes besides being a suspect in the Isabella murder her dangerous secret has come to town to reclaim her. These secrets keep Bill busy while changing his life forever. --- This is a refreshing original mystery that occurs in a twenty-first century Peyton Place like town. There are many key interesting characters with some providing a third person point of view that moves the exciting story line forward with a reasonable degree of believability and understanding. ISABELLA MOON is a multifaceted police procedural intertwined with subplots that come together to forge a well written recommended whodunit. --- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok... I just finished this book and was very frustrated with the ending.. The plot was great! This could have been a best seller.. I agree with other reviews that state the ending was very rushed. Like the writer was going on vacation so she decided to wrap it up in 10 minutes. I did care about the characters, especially Kate. So over this book! And furthermore I noted at least 6 problems that editing missed. DID I MENTION THE ENDING SUCKED!!!