Thursday, June 14, 2007

Softspoken, by Lucius Shepard

Lucius Shepard
Night Shade Books: 2007

With Softspoken Lucius Shepard puts his spin on the ghost story / haunted house sub-genre of fiction. Sanie and her husband Jackson are transplants from Chapel Hill, North Carolina down to South Carolina so Jackson can study for the bar. To get away from all distractions, Jackson and Sanie are living in Jackson's childhood home. From the start Sanie hears voices, somebody calling out her name. After ruling out Jackson's brother and sister, who are each living at the house, Sanie starts thinking about ghosts.

Where the average author would tell a simple ghost story and veer into some Hill House related horror, Lucius Shepard does something different. He changes the nature of the game. Softspoken is not a simple ghost story. It is not a simple anything. Shepard presents us Sanie, a well put together woman who is pulled away from everything she knows to support her husband's studies. From a vibrant community she now lives in an insular town where Jackson Bullard's family has a bit of a reputation for madness. It is this madness which Sanie faces along with the voices and as the house and the town begins to exert some sort of influence on her husband and on herself.

Lucius Shepard is a master at packing in the most story and the most feeling into a short novel. Softspoken is, no pun intended, a haunting novel of hidden voices, ghosts, a breaking marriage, and the influence of small towns and family history. In a tight little package, Softspoken delivers a gripping story which gets more complex as the novel progresses and Shepard peels away layer after to layer to reveal far more than the reader initially anticipated. Lucius Shepard is a top shelf writer. Read him.

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