“Brackenhill stole the sanity of women and the bodies of children.”
Hannah Maloney, her fiancé Huck, and their dog Rink, live and work in Virginia. Huck comes from a large and gregarious family, Hannah seems to have no family ties. Until… she gets a phone call from Upstate New York informing her that her aunt Fae has been in a car accident.
For five summers in her adolescent years, Hannah and her sister Julia stayed at her Aunt and Uncle’s castle in the Catskill Mountains named ‘Brackenhill’. It was a magical place for Hannah. Free from her creepy and abusive step-father, she delighted in the castle, the forest that surrounded it, and the care-free summers of exploration with her sister.
Then, when Hannah was fifteen and her sister Julia, was seventeen, her sister disappeared from Brackenhill, never to be heard from again. Traumatized, Hannah hasn’t been back for seventeen years. Now with Huck and Rink in tow, she returns.
When Rink digs up some bones on the Brackenhill grounds, a police investigation is launched, and Hannah is immersed in Brackenhill’s history – and its secrets – one again. Could the bones belong to her sister Julia?
The policeman heading the investigation just happens to be Hannah’s first love, Wyatt. Despite the fact that she is engaged to be married, the attraction she once felt for him resurfaces at once.
Desperate to remember that long ago summer, and seeking closure, she stays on at Brackenhill even after Huck returns to work in Virginia.
Part suspense thriller, part ghost story, this is not what I expected. After having read two other novels by this author, both more pure thrillers, this one took me by surprise.
Make no mistake, the setting is the star of the show here. Brackenhill, a remote castle embedded in the Catskill mountains. Erected on a thousand acre plot, the square-built stone structure boasted four turrets on each corner with a courtyard in the middle. A place for imagination to run amok. With thirty-three rooms, turrets, circular staircases, labyrinthine basement rooms, locked doors, and secret passageways, I loved every stone of it. (BTW, there is a real castle in the Catskills named Dundas Castle, which I’m sure inspired the author). I’ll likely forget the story in years to come, but I will never forget the setting.
The protagonist, at first likeable, seemed to turn flakier as the story progressed. With memory lapses and sleep-walking episodes, Hannah seemed to be suffering from PTSD. The plot was as labyrinthine as the castle’s basement and though the first two-thirds of the book was compelling, for me, the ending let it down.
A domino-like, though slightly weak denouement followed themes of parental grief, teenage envy, mental-illness, guilt, and of course family secrets. A slow-paced, gothic-toned thriller that will be enjoyed by many.
3.5 stars rounded up for Amazon and down for Goodreads
(where the stars have different meanings)
ISBN: 9781542000086 – ASIN: B082NN6JFN – 330 pages
Kate Moretti is the New York Times Bestselling author of Thought I Knew You, While You Were Gone, and Binds That Tie, The Blackbird Season, and The Vanishing Year . She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.
She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn’t get to do those things as much as she’d like.
Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.
Follow Kate Moretti on Twitter @KateMoretti1