Review

Isabella Moon

by Laura Benedict

In
Carystown, Kentucky, the only person more mysterious than the ghost
of Isabella Moon is the woman she has been appearing to. Kate
Russell arrived in Carystown just a few years ago and made a quiet
life for herself in the quaint little town. But, after Isabella,
who disappeared two years ago, leads Kate to the spot where her
body was hastily buried, Kate risks telling Sheriff Delaney,
knowing her own past is at risk of exposure. And Delaney is curious
about the attractive and illusive Kate... Soon, though, he has his
hands full with a murder of a town matriarch, the death of a high
school student and the discovery of Isabella Moon's body. He
wonders if these events are all connected and why Kate seems to be
at the center of it all. Who is she, really, and what is happening
in this small town?

Laura Benedict's debut novel, ISABELLA MOON, is part ghost story,
part murder mystery and part examination of the dark side of small
town America. While the plot is interesting and suspenseful, it is
the characters who really make it compelling. Sheriff Delaney is
the classic crotchety career cop, but he is also an outsider to
Carystown. Despite having married a woman from one of the town's
aristocratic families, he is not originally from Carystown and can
see it and its inhabitants with an objective eye. Kate's friend,
Francie, is a tough and independent woman, but she is carrying on a
secret affair with the town's rich golden boy, Paxton. Paxton
himself has a nasty drug habit and is still living at home with his
ailing yet strong-willed mother.

When Francie's mother, the well-respected Lillian Cayley, is
murdered right after Kate takes her searching for the body of
Isabella Moon, Francie's relationships with both Kate and Paxton
begin to deteriorate. As Sheriff Delaney tries to make sense of the
chaos threatening his usually peaceful jurisdiction, he continues
to wonder if it is all somehow tied to Kate.

By far the most engaging characters are Kate Russell and Isabella
Moon herself. Isabella was just nine years old when she went
missing after school one day. Her disappearance caused a media
storm, but there were never any solid leads for the police to work
with, and the frenzy died down. Her mother and the others who lived
on the communal farm on the outskirts of town also went on with
their lives. Two years later Isabella is back, appearing to her
mother and, for some reason, to Kate as well. Perhaps it is because
of Kate's own violent and frightening past that Isabella's ghost
confides in her.

As Sheriff Delaney soon learns, Kate is not exactly who she says
she is. Through the course of the novel, her past is revealed to
readers: a life of abuse and humiliation at the hands of her
husband Miles and a series of shocking acts that eventually lead
her, shielded with a new identity, to Carystown. Kate learns,
though, that the past is never really that far behind. Once
Isabella shows up, Kate and others living lies in Carystown will
have to face dangerous truths.

ISABELLA MOON is a sexy and violent thriller with a surprising
conclusion. Benedict's style is straightforward, and while her pace
is slow at times, the combination of traditional thriller and ghost
story makes this book a unique read. Benedict throws many balls
into the air and does a good job catching most of them. Future
efforts surely will be more streamlined, making her a novelist
worth watching.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 22, 2011

Isabella Moon
by Laura Benedict

  • Publication Date: September 25, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345497678
  • ISBN-13: 9780345497673