Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Speaks the Nightbird

Everyone is back to work and school today, and it feels good to get back into my routine. It's easy when Jess and the kids are home to stay in bed and not do much. When they are gone, I have to stretch myself a little more. And in doing more, even I don't feel as well physically, I feel better mentally because of what I'm getting done.

Tonight I'm finishing up Elizabeth George's Finding God's Path Through Your Trials. I've really enjoyed reading this devotional. Today when a trial snuck up on me, I could feel myself going into panic mode jumping to the worst possibly outcome. But then I remembered (the Holy Spirit reminded me) of the verse I've been reading for the last few days in the book. 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. George suggested changing the word temptation to trial. I thought through the verse in my mind making that substitution, and the knowledge that whatever this trial is, God's going to give me either the strength to bear up under it or a way out of it. So while I'm a little concerned right now, I'm not going to stress about it.

Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon is a shockingly good historical thriller. In 1699 in colonial Carolina, judicial clerk Matthew Corbett travels along with his guardian and magistrate Isaac Woodward to the small village of Fount Royal to investigate the case of a witch. Rachel Howarth, a young widow of Portugese descent, has been blamed for murders, crop failures, and a rash of fires in the town, and everyone is looking forward to seeing her burn at the stake. But Matthew has questions about the enigmatic beauty, and the more he digs into the town's secrets, the more his life is in danger. I read the review of The Queen of Bedlam in Publisher's Weekly and saw that it was a sequel to this book, so I ordered it. I was intimidated at first by its 700+ pages, but once I cracked it open, it was nearly impossible to put it down. McCammon carefully lays the foundation for the suspense, so that when it starts to build, each page feels like another stick thrown on Rachel's pyre. McCammon doesn't make her innocence or guilt immediately obvious, so as Matthew falls for her despite the testimony about her midnight indiscretions with imps and Satan himself, fear is palpable. But where McCammon really shines is in creating the suffocatingly claustrophobic atmosphere of this isolated community. Everywhere villagers are calling for Rachel's death, and with each of Matthew's questions, they start to raise accusations about him as well. The book feels hopeless, and yet as long as Matthew believes in Rachel, there is hope. The dialogue is vibrant, especially the exchanges between Matthew and Bidwell. There are multiple forces at work, and McCammon does a terrific job of making them work together to make a piece of classic horror literature. Nearly every page made me catch my breath in horror, fear, or surprise. It's a book I'll be recommending to everyone for the next few months. I've already reserved The Queen of Bedlam in which Matthew returns!

I wrote a letter a few months ago about a terrific mystery series to BookPage magazine. Imagine my surprise when I opened it today and found my letter. I only wish the answer was more encouraging.