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Author Spotlight: Jennifer McMahon

About the Author:

I fell in love with McMahon’s writing in 2016- her haunting, often supernatural thrillers captivating my imagination and often frightening me the perfect amount. McMahon is a New Englander like myself, who writes about the small town charm and politics, often utilizing Vermont as the setting for many of her novels. Every novel has left me thumbing through the pages, attempting to devour the words as fast as I can. If you haven’t read her work, any book of hers is a great place to start.

Novels

The Winter People
Published: February 2014, Doubleday Books

Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: urban legends, ghosts, monsters, death, murder.

img_6329It didn’t take much for me to sign this book out of the library. I pulled it off the shelf, opened the cover, and saw that the main setting was in Vermont. Done. Signed it out, and two days later, finished reading it. The Winter People is a ghost tale thriller, and it had me turning the pages to figure out what would happen next.

The story revolves around main character Sara Harrison Shea and her daughter Gertie. Without giving too much away, Sara and her husband Martin lose their daughter in what was deemed an accident in 1908, and the aftermath of the way they handled the situation haunts to town for years to come. This tragedy sends Ruthie and her little sister Fawn, current residents of Sara’s old homestead, on a hunt for answers after they find a copy of Sara’s diary hidden in their mother’s room.

Now, I love a good ghost story, and as I said before, this book had me hooked. However, the review is that it’s not gripping enough to make my favorites lists. The plot itself is pretty good, as necessary information is leaked out with enough suspense that it doesn’t give everything away all at once. There were some good plot twists and although some might be able to predict the ending, I couldn’t with any certainty. However, the reading level leans towards more young adult, as it’s readability is a little simple and repetitive and I didn’t love the resolution as it seemed a little Hallmark to me, though it does have a bit of a cliffhanger in it, keeping the thriller theme.

The Night Sister
Published: August 2015, Doubleday Books

Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: urban legends, ghosts, monsters, death, murder.

img_9798In the novel, we are introduced to multiple characters during different time periods, so it may seem a little confusing- but hang in there with me.

First, in the 1950s/60s, there is the Slater family, with sister duo Sylvie and Rose. Their parents ran a motel off Route 6 in London, VT.  They were close but always at odds with each other. When their grandmother visits from London, England, she tells the legend of the Mare, a half-human, half-transforming monster.

Later, in the 1980s, and present 2013, we are introduced to sisters Piper and Margo, whose friend Amy is Rose’s daughter. Charlotte Slater, Rose’s mother, was almost always in sole care of Amy, so the girls often spent time at the family’s motel during the long summers, even though it became almost obsolete due to the construction of a highway that drove past London, VT. As a team, they decide to explore the tower by the motel, and end up finding some of Sylvies old letters to Alfred Hitchcock and notes about the Mare. When they learn more about the legend, and the sudden disappearance of Syvlie, the girls decide to find the truth- except the truth becomes more than they can bear.

In present 2013, Margo calls Piper to tell her that Amy, her son, and her husband have all been brutally murdered, apparently at Amy’s hands. The lone survivor is Amy’s daughter, Lou. Piper returns to Vermont to try and keep long buried secrets from surfacing as the case is being investigated.

As darn near promised with her name on the cover, McMahon creates a rapid-paced suspense thriller that leaves you on the edge of your seat until the last page. I had a hard time predicting who the culprit was when it became clear that murder scene was more than the cops expected. The flow between time periods and characters was very easy to follow and each transition was clear- this was especially excellent as I listened to the audiobook instead of reading a hard copy. In addition to that, the narration was good- believable, well paced, and enjoyable to the ear- so there was no distraction from the plot. In the end, I would say this is a great, creepy but not too frightening ghostly supernatural style suspense thriller that anyone could enjoy. 

Burntown
Published: April 2017, Doubleday Canada

Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: homelessness, time travel, life threatening situations, murder.

“There is no someday. We spend so much of our lives waiting for someday, don’t we? There is only right now. This is our someday.”

img_6400Burntown had me hooked in the first 10 pages. HOOKED. By page 35, I had a running list of questions, and by page 50, I couldn’t take my eyes off the page. There are very few books that I’ve read in one day, yet here I am, adding this suspense thriller to the list. I could not put it down. 

The whole story starts with the murder of Elizabeth Sandeski, the grandmother of the main character, Necco (Eva). Necco’s father, Miles, witnesses the murderer take his mother’s life, and years down the road attempts revenge. Thanks to a machine that links the living with the dead, Elizabeth reveals who killed her, and Miles takes matters into his own hands- or so he thinks. Years after that, Necco’s mother has a sort of premonition that the family is in danger again, and Necco learns that she’s in danger just before things get foggy and her memories fade to black.

Now, Necco is on the run again with the help of a high school drug dealer, a circus-crazed cafeteria lady, and a part-time private investigator, trying to figure out who is after her and what happened to her family after “the Great Flood”. Everything Necco thought she knew is nothing compared to the truth she uncovers.

Burntown has a dystopian feel mixed with a suspense thriller. McMahon has the reader ripping through the pages to find out what will happen next.

For more McMahon, check out her latest novel, The Invited!

 

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Categories: Author Spotlights, Dystopian, Fiction, Paranormal, Suspense Thriller, Vermont Reads

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