“Isn't it beautiful out here?” Jacqueline was draped elegantly across the front seat of her husband's Jeep Cherokee. “Just look at those gorgeous, rolling hills.”
Madeleine stared at her from the seat in back. She saw nothing but rocks, urinating cows, and more rocks.
“I think I've been in the city too long.”
“The cabin and the lake will charm you, Madeleine, as it has charmed the two of us,” said Manuel in his thick accent.
She looked back to the highway in time to see a dead, bloated black and white cow being lifted out of the road by a tow truck. Beyond the truck were two large black tires stuck on fence posts, the words Keep Out written on the sides in big white letters.
Madeleine closed her eyes and decided to sleep the rest of the way. Five years ago she would have looked at the land and its inhabitants with different eyes. She would have been curious, interested in the geological aspects, and full of wondering about the humans who might have wandered the area centuries ago. Now she felt nothing but a mild case of carsickness from riding in the back seat.
“Almost there now,” said Manuel, cheerful but tired.
He had been called in for emergency surgery at the last minute, delaying their start by several hours. It would be dark soon, so Madeleine wouldn't be able to see much that day. Jacqueline assured her they would explore the lake together the next morning. The two of them had gone shopping for food that afternoon and brought along a month's worth of supplies with them. Fresh items could be bought in the tiny town of Green Lake, just four miles away from the reservoir or in Fayville a larger town a dozen miles away. Anything else she required she could tell Jacqueline, who would bring it with her from the city.
“You should feel safe at the cabin,” Manuel informed her. “Your nearest neighbor is a conservation officer.”
”A game protector,” said Jacqueline. “They were known as game wardens before, but they're called conservation officers now. We met him last year. His name is Eris Renard.”
“French?” asked Madeleine.
“No,” said Jacqueline. “He's an Indian.”
“Oh,” said Madeleine, suddenly uncomfortable.
“Did he ever say what kind?” Jacqueline asked Manuel.
“What kind?” Manuel echoed, and his wife waved a hand.
“Madeleine should be able to tell us. That kind of thing is her specialty.”
Madeleine glanced at her. “I doubt I'll be able to tell what nation he's from just by looking at him.”
“Not looking. Hearing. I thought dialects were your thing.”
“Linguistics, Jac. Languages.”
“Sorry, I keep forgetting.”
“Me too,” Madeleine said under her breath.
“There's another conservation officer that comes around in the summer,” Jacqueline went on. “He stays mostly on the water, checking out the boats and such, but this one is a real looker. He won't say much to you, but then neither does Renard. They're polite and all, but they keep pretty much to themselves.”
“This Renard lives in a cabin?” asked Madeleine, and Manuel nodded.
“There are several year-round residents. He's one of them. You will meet him soon, since his is the nearest cabin. Most of the other cabins are down the hill, in Briar's Cove. Ours is near the cemetery—”
”A really old one,” said Jacqueline. “Most of the stones are so weathered you can't even read them. It's a shame, really. You won't be able to see it tonight, but I'll show it to you in the morning.”
Rural Kansas is to Epperson (The Neighborhood) what rural Maine is to Stephen King: an outback where outlandish terror lurks. The setting in this curious, fractured novel is the isolated Kansas village of Green Lake, where anthropology professor Madeleine Heron moves to a vacation cabin to recover from her husband's suicide. There, Madeleine meets an assortment of odd, troubling neighbors, including Eris Renard, a lonely, mountain-sized Indian conservation officer whose scarred face and gruff manner can't fully hide his good heart. Epperson excels at creating vibrant characters, all of them wounded in one way or another. Their web of relationships--especially a growing love between Madeleine and Eris that's threatened by Eris's reunion, after 27 years, with his birth mother, who is vehemently anti-white--form a narrative skein that hoists the story above melodrama. And that's good, because the drama here is cheesy and lurid, involving child-slayings, a local official who likes to run people down in his car and another local who literally loves the dead. Epperson's skills at evoking the human heart far exceed her ability to create suspense that can make the heart pound. Increasingly, she seems like a mainstream author who's wandered into the psychological suspense genre by accident and can't find her way out.
Riveting, quirky story line. Kept me glued to the pages. The only drawbacks were the lack of editing (numerous grammatical errors) and the rapid, weak rush to end the story. It is ok if the good guy doesn't come rushing in to save the day in the end.
REALLY enjoyable and entertaining
Adored everything about this book! The characters, the setting, dialogue, how the story developed, even the quirky folks. Glad the bad guys got their just desserts. Love triumphed, too!
Wasn't sure what to expect with the title, but I was surprised by an involved plot and page-turning read. Characters well-developed. Recommend reading!