dark
Mystery, suspense and a good dose of ghost story set in the backwoods of Louisiana. What could be more delicious?

But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. – William Butler Yeats

There are souls which fall from heaven like flowers, but ere they bloom are crushed under the foul tread of some brutal hoof. – Jean Paul

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. – Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

The nature of evil. Dissected, pulled apart, studied, and still, no one really knows, do we? Evil is the pedophile and the serial killer. The crazed and the cruel. The dark shadows that walk the night. We might agree on that. But what of those dark, quiet evils that live next door? The ones who smile to your face and wish you good morning, while horrors live in their basements – and the basements of their souls?

Malaise LaCroix never really had a chance, even before she was born. The daughter of the local whore and ‘hoodoo woman’ in backwoods Louisiana, Malaise, or Mala for short, ekes out a living in the swamps, fishing and watching for the ubiquitous gators that can pull her under and kill her in a heartbeat. But it is the darkness and shadows, the crazed and the cruel, who may take her life in the long run. For Mala has found a body, floating in the swamp. A body that some very rich, and very powerful – and very mad – people do not want found.

Lainey Prince is the daughter of the Reverend Prince, he of righteousness and purity, the king of the pulpit and voice of god. Finding her floating in the swamp, Mala pulls her out and calls the police, thereby dropping herself into a whirlwind of terror. For the townsfolk are all determined to blame her for Lainey’s death. She is, after all, the daughter of a black hoodoo witch, right? So the righteous and the pure of heart (can we all hear a halleluiah, amen?) determine to punish Mala and her mother, Jasmine. And purity of heart has nothing to do with these people who hide behind their “faith” in order to commit the most horrendous of evils. Funny how religion works that way. . . Things become even more interesting when Landry, Lainey’s younger brother and rising football star, comes to Mala, determined to learn the truth no matter what it may be. Did Mala really kill Lainey in some sort of black rite? Or is the woman he has loved from afar for so very long truly innocent? What Landry learns is more than he ever could have expected. For Lainey might be dead. But she is far from gone. And she is one very unhappy spirit.

Dark Paradise grabbed me from the beginning and didn’t let me go. Of course, I am a sucker for a mystery/suspense/thriller novel set in Louisiana. Curled up in my chair, the lights out except for the glow from my reader, soft southern Blues playing, I immersed myself in the story, walking with Mala through the swamps, smelling the scents and hearing the cry of the insects, the grunts and roars from the gators and razorbacks, feeling the heat against my skin, even as the temperature of the night drops lower and the crickets begin to sing outside my window. The faces of the characters, their wrinkles from the harsh weather and the harsh life, the cold eyes and superstitious hatreds all come clear in my mind, rising up like mist in my memory.

Visits to Angie Sandro’s father’s family in Louisiana inspired Dark Paradise, and those visits flow through in her writing. There are no missed notes, no cliché to her story. Instead, there is a touch of realism to the story which sooths and comforts the knowledgeable when it comes to the quirks and fallacies, the kindness and the cruelty of the Southern mind.

There is only one thing that really itched my “What the Huh?” spot. As LaCroixs, Jasmine and Mala descend from a long line of “witchy women” which reaches back to the shores of Africa. Tied to the Loa Baron LaCroix, the women take his name, and supposedly, his spirit as well. Much like the Loa Baron Samedi, Baron LaCroix, also one of the five Ghede, are often rude, crude and oversexed, but they are not by nature evil. LaCroix is rather more fun-loving with a deep sense of play. Something that isn’t depicted in his interactions in this novel. Be that as it may, a person who shares no knowledge of Voudon, of the cultures and rituals of this ancient religion, should not be bothered by this not-quite-realistic portrayal. Artistic license forgives much, and in this case it pushes forward the story in a way both interesting and frightening by turns. And yes, Ms. Sandro, I do get your twisted sense of humour! Overall? I completely enjoyed the book and am looking forward to Dark Sacrifice. Bring on the hoodoo, women, I am ready!

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I received this book from Grand Central Publishing in return for an honest review. Honestly? I loved it. If you love what I like to call Southern Suspense, you will undoubtedly like this book. It publishes JULY 1, 2014 so be sure to pick it up!

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