In the tantalizing opening, set in 1999, of Hahn’s carefully crafted first novel, documentary filmmaker Hans Loomis steels himself to open a package, covered with drawings of snakes, birds, skulls, and flowers, from Jack Wyck, a convicted felon. That Hans has asked Wyck about something that happened two decades earlier is a sign to Wyck that he’ll soon be out of prison. A flashback to upstate New York in 1979 introduces 17-year-old Alice Pearson, a high school student who, with three friends, becomes involved with the mysterious Wyck, who lives in an isolated farmhouse. Twenty years later, Alice, now a folklore professor, is researching ballads about a murdered girl’s body transformed into a musical instrument that’s able to identify her killer. After Hans contacts Alice about his film about Wyck, she’s chilled to learn that Wyck has fans who have created a website featuring images from his past crimes. Well-wrought leads enhance the effective, gradual reveal of exactly what put Wyck behind bars. Agent: Jessica Papin, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Mar.)
"Tantalizing . . . carefully crafted."
— Publishers Weekly
"A writer to watch for fans of sophisticated psychological suspense . . . Hahn maintains a fine balance between mystery and disclosure. The atmosphere throughout is tense and subtly creepy, and the folkloric elements are an interesting, original touch."
— Kirkus Reviews
"The Singing Bone reads like the work of a seasoned novelist: rich, haunting, layered, beautifully written. It raises questions about the good and evil in all of us, the characters are complex, and the story's a page-turner—what more could a reader ask for?"
— B. A. Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of The Art Forger
"I stayed up all night reading The Singing Bone, and I kept on reading it on the airport bus. When I finished it, I was halfway across the ocean, and I wanted to stand up in the aisle and yell, this is a terrific book by a writer with talent to burn and the only thing wrong with it was that it wasn’t twice as long. Fans of the elegant, masterful, and downright chilling, watch this space for Beth Hahn."
— Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and Two if By Sea
"The debut spine-chiller from Beth Hahn, is a concoction of sophistication and surprise . . . riveting in detail and nuance."
Quiet, studious Alice Wood is forced to face her past when filmmaker Hans Loomis approaches her about including her story in a documentary about cult leader Jack Wyck in the 1970s. Although Alice has sought obscurity after the events of that summer, which led to Wyck's imprisonment, it soon becomes clear that Alice will be outed either by the filmmaker or a group of Wyckians, who still admire Wyck despite his conviction. In her debut, Hahn intertwines Alice's experiences with free love and drugs and her search for enlightenment as a teenager with her desire to remain anonymous as an adult. The chapters alternate between 1979 and 1999, but Alice's stream-of-consciousness narrative sometimes blurs the line between past and present. This book demonstrates convincingly how an intelligent, well-liked, and respected high school student can suddenly find herself involved with a man on the fringes of society. Although teens need to navigate between two narrators and two different time periods, those who appreciate psychological thrillers will keep reading for answers. VERDICT A good choice where Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train are popular.—Krystina Kelley, Belle Valley School, Belleville, IL
A debut novel about the nature of guilt and the impossibility of escaping the past. High school senior Alice Pearson is ready to leave her past behind her and make a new life far away from upstate New York. But Alice's plans change when she meets the charismatic Mr. Wyck. Instead of going to college, she moves into his big, ramshackle house in the woods, where she becomes part of an ersatz family devoted to sex, drugs, and idiosyncratic spiritual beliefs. Readers will not be surprised when things go terribly, terribly wrong; indeed, that they will is clear from the very start. The narrative begins in 1999, 20 years after the events that changed Alice's life. She's adopted a new name and built a new identity as a professor of folklore, but this doesn't stop a documentary filmmaker from finding her. Nor does it protect her from Wyck's fanatical online following. As her carefully constructed existence unravels, Alice must confront dangers from within and without, including her own role in a string of murders. Shifting back and forth in time, Hahn maintains a fine balance between mystery and disclosure. The atmosphere throughout is tense and subtly creepy, and the folkloric elements are an interesting, original touch. Alice's specialty is a group of ballads and tales in which a murder victim's body transforms—a breastbone turns into a harp, hair is used as violin strings—and reveals the name of his or her killer. This material is so rich and resonant that readers may wish there had been more of it. The other disappointment is the extent to which Mr. Wyck's household resembles Charles Manson's and his "family," right down to Manson's musical ambitions. The inability to forget these real-life murderers makes it difficult, sometimes, to believe in Hahn's fictional sociopaths. But these are minor complaints. Hahn is a writer to watch for fans of sophisticated psychological suspense.
"I stayed up all night readingThe Singing Bone, and I kept on reading it on the airport bus. When I finished it, I was halfway across the ocean, and I wanted to stand up in the aisle and yell, this is a terrific book by a writer with talent to burn and the only thing wrong with it was that it wasn’t twice as long. Fans of the elegant, masterful, and downright chilling, watch this space for Beth Hahn"