Friday, July 03, 2015

“Let Me Die in His Footsteps” by Lori Roy – Family Secrets

Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (book cover)
Some families trace back generations upon generations, being downright ancient and comprising more people than many of us will end up meeting in a lifetime. The bigger and more complex a family tree grows, the more there is room for deviations and darker secrets, for outliers to pop up out of nowhere. Some families have the misfortune of having a black sheep, and in some cases, by virtue of their evil character, they can bring ruin to all those around them.

Lori Roy works rather interestingly with that idea in her third novel, Let Me Die in His Footsteps. To give a short summary of the story before starting the review, it is set in two time periods separated by nearly two decades: the 1930s and 1950s in Kentucky. On one hand, we are following the story of the Baine boys, seven of them, or more precisely, that of Joseph Carl and his seduction by Juna Crowley, who made him do terrible things to innocent people. Twenty years later, we are presented with Annie Holleran, who steels herself for the return of her aunt, Juna Crowley, who is intent on finishing the dark deeds she started and bring to light some terrible secrets that will haunt the family for evermore.

To begin with, Let Me Die in His Footsteps is a fine piece of literature when looked at from a technical perspective. The writing style is slow, methodical and precisely descriptive, doing a fantastic job at describing the setting, basking the reader in its terrible bleakness and making us feel the full weight of the sun and shadows alike. Roy captivatingly describes life as it was in those times, filled with true hardships that will resonate with any of us in one way or another.

When it comes to the characters I believe everyone can agree that they have been crafted with the utmost care and determination. They are all flawed and unbalanced in one way or another, with their descriptions going rather deep and giving rise to multiple layers of complexity. The way they interact with one another feels very natural and realistic, with no one ever going out of character to do something unexpected.

The pace of this story can only be described as slow, and for what it set out to achieve, it is the only way to go about it. Primarily, it seems this book was destined to be a slow-burning, Gothic, Southern mystery revolving around family secrets and coming of age... and it does that fantastically-well. Though the jumping in-between time periods may take some getting used to, the story should be thought of as a refined dish, one for which you'd need to have an acquired taste.

All in all, Let Me Die in His Footsteps is, objectively-speaking, a very solid and captivating book that delivers a superb performance on virtually all fronts and more than surpasses the bar of what is expected from Southern Gothic mysteries. However, those that don't enjoy slow-moving mysteries based on hidden family secrets may want to approach this more carefully, for it may not be your cup of tea. Otherwise, I highly recommend it.

Lori Roy

Lori Roy

Personal site

Lori Roy is an American author who had the distinction of being awarded the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel for Bent Road. In addition, it was named a 2011 New York Times Notable Crime Book. Her second novel, Until She Comes Home, didn't fail to make waves either, as it was a finalist for the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Novel.

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