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Horror WorldThe bayou reigns supreme in the realms of atmosphere. A reader or moviegoer would be hard-pressed to name a locale that invigorates and swallows the senses as deeply as the alien-down-home feeling of southern Louisiana. In the midst of that beautiful, swampy place rife with creatures of all sorts, a new queen sits on the throne who captures its essence in every story, every line, every person.
When you meet Leblanc’s characters, you sink deep into their lives, their feelings, just as if you had stepped in quicksand or the ancient silt which lies beneath the mysteries of her settings.
Ritual and tradition are essential to every one of her novels. Water Witch is no different, with its supernatural command of the spirit world by Olm, an odd character who wishes not only to follow in his ancestor’s brutal ceremonies of the Pawnee tribe. Rituals, just like recipes, are seldom followed to the “T” – improvisation keeps things fresh and fun. However, the kidnapping of a young boy and girl bring out more problems than solutions. Some might say Olm is a simple-minded character, but look deeper for a strong parallel to modern religious leaders. The insertion of such “natural” phenomena in the bayou as the feux fo lais and affects of the wildlife bring an “is it or isn’t it?” conflict which again, brings home the mystery of a land foreign to most readers.
Characters in Leblanc’s novels never fail to mutate away from the standard formula, shown to perfection in Family Inheritance and Morbid Curiosity. Those who populate Water Witch don’t disappoint. Besides the enigmatic Olm and grandmotherly Poochie, who feel as tangible as an alligator hide, the main character shines in a manner not seen before by this author.
Dunny ranks high on the list of memorable heroines as she holds a special power – due to an extra finger. Rather than compare her to King’s Johnny Smith or Koontz’ Odd Thomas, Dunny deserves her own categorization. Also reluctant, she pulls herself into a world of seclusion, wary of the social implications that would accompany a finger that helps locate objects and people. Leblanc pulls her out into the real world, albeit the strange one detailed here, but also manages to pull in the reader.
Very highly recommended.--(David Simms)