Monday, July 16, 2018

Books: "In The Vines" By Shannon Kirk

In The Vines
By Shannon Kirk
Thomas & Mercer; 317 pages, $24.95 hardcover; $15.95 paperback; $4.99 Kindle eBook - available tomorrow July 17th

Internationally bestselling author Shannon Kirk's In The Vines is a frenetic and lyrical thriller set on the grounds of an opulent Atlantic-side estate.

Mary Olivia Pentecost, known affectionately by her initials Mop, was born into one of the wealthiest families in the country, as well as one of the most guarded.

Two years after her mother's mysterious death, Mop is seeking closure on the disquieting tragedy by returning to the New England seaside estate where everything went so wrong. This homecoming will also mean a reunion with her cloistered Aunty Liv, who was once her closest relative and confidante.

Kirk, in the voice of Pentecost, writes, "Everyone calls me Mop. And I'm glad, because my name is ridiculous: Mary Olivia Pentecost, like I'm some dowdy, black-dressed colonial awaiting a witch trial in Salem. But since our family money tracks back to Mayflower days, I was burdened with a Mayflower name.

"I don't wear any of the gold crosses given to me on my birthdays or my confirmation, not the one with embedded emeralds bestowed like an heir-apparent coronation sacrament at my Trinity High graduation. There's a drawer in my room in our Rye estate filled with crosses, literally filled with crucifixes of all kinds, shapes, metals, and woods. I never open that drawer except to plop another in, and when I do, a drop in air pressure causes my stomach to lurch, and an ice chill slaps my cheeks, as if a demon is being released from the bowels of my dresser. I slam the drawer shut to feel benevolent warmth again. Lessons on religious wars scarred me. Babies impaled on spikes? Who could ever get behind a religion (different from faith) like that? Who could ever get blindly behind any man-made religion? I'm not an atheist. I'm just troubled by the way money and power motivate the undercurrents of churches.

"What is a church? What is mine? Is it okay to ask these questions? I believe, I think, it's okay to ask these questions.

"Here I am in a hole in the ground, waiting to die. My companion is passed out. I have nothing to do while the woman above tries to find us with her shrill voice. Shouting on repeat, 'Bitch!' All day I've been in here thinking and fading. Thinking and fading and cowering and hot.

"In my mind, I keep getting stuck on the sharp and sudden contrast between our cheery, rosy life and the dark life after the fire, my mother's death, and Aunty Liv's devastating abandonment.

"Her abandonment.

"Her sudden, awful abandonment.

"No warnings.

"But were there warnings?

"I worry, too, about my love, my Manny. I wonder if he's alive. These questions I'm asking myself right now while I wait an eternity to find a way to escape - What is a church? What is mine? Were there warnings before the fire, before the abandonment? - perhaps these are just the untethered questions one asks when they've lost grasp of reason, when in a total existential and physical crisis.

"I don't visit priest chambers to atone for my or my family's sins. I don't necessarily respect my father's sister, the nun, just because she's a nun - was a nun - and the biggest source of all those crosses. Maybe I respect her for other things. Sister Mary Patience Pentecost: I was named, in part, after her. That's my aunt the nun, from my father's side, but I gravitate to my mother's sister, Aunty Liv: Lynette Viola Vandonbeer. My mother, Johanna Vandonbeer Pentecost, called her Liv or Sis - when they were alive at the same time."

Once behind the walls of the isolated estate, the shadows of the past are darker than Mop could ever imagine.

Aunty Liv, once lovable in her eccentricity, has become nearly unrecognizable in her mental and physical decline. As Mop begins to explore her old home, she finds that things are worse than she had thought.

With each revelation a new, foreboding threat is revealed. For Mop, the grave suspicion is that to discover Aunty Liv's secrets is to become a prisoner of them.

Many questions swirl through Mop's mind, such as: How well do we know the people we love? How well do we want to know them? The answers are as twisted as a tangle of vines in this throat-clutching novel of psychological suspense.

In The Vines is one of the best mysteries you will read this year, as it has a lush plot, endearingly deranged characters, and a rich, sumptuous coastal backdrop.

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