When poet Maria Pell agrees to write a biography of deceased writer Edwina Frost, she has no clue that the horror fiction maven’s ghost will tag along. Complicating matters is the discovery of a child’s bones on Frost property. How does Louise, Edwina’s aloof sister, figure into the story? Her Poe-quoting cousin James? Then there’s the Spanish poet who writes of peacocks…
Maria loves her housemate, Mathieu. So does her gorgeous red-headed neighbor, Sybi, who shares photos of dried monkey heads to help with his article on voodoo. As Maria’s jealousy grows, will she suffer the same fate as Edwina? Will a malevolent spirit possess her? Read The Untold Story of Edwina to find out.
KIRKUS REVIEWS BOOK REVIEW:
A poet writing a posthumous biography of a horrornovelist colleague gets caught up in an investigation of bones found buried on the author’s property in Handy’s (Spy Car and Other Poems, 2016, etc.) thriller.
Maria Pell seems a good choice to write the biography of the recently deceased Edwina Frost, the “Queen of Horror Fiction.” She and Edwina both taught at the same university, and Edwina’s nephew, U.S. Senate hopeful Hugh Bentley, feels that Maria will be more sympathetic than others who might be looking for dirt. Around the same time, authorities find skeletal remains of a 1yearold boy on Edwina’s land. The boy’s body had been in the ground for half a century, and his head trauma suggests murder. Maria, who’s communed with dead poets before, believes that Edwina’s spirit may be aggressively trying to reach her. Maria reads Edwina’s unfinished manuscript, but it doesn’t get her mind off the dead boy, especially when she considers the possibility that Edwina or her despised sister, Louise, had a secret child. There are plenty of other things to make Maria anxious, as well, such as an anonymous caller warning her not to delve into the writer’s life, and her feeling that someone (or something) is with her in Edwina’s house. But one threat lies closer to home: Maria is certain her lover, Mathieu, is having an affair with coquettish neighbor Sybi. Overall, Handy’s novella is more mystery than horror. The author smartly keeps the existence of Edwina’s spirit predominantly ambiguous; as a result, readers will think that there’s a good chance she’s only in Maria’s head. Edwina, in fact, seems more like a manifestation of negative feelings, from her own animosity toward her sister to Maria’s envy of the younger Sybi. Mystery abounds regarding the boy’s identity and that of his killer, which Maria ultimately unravels. The status of Mathieu’s fidelity, too, is unknown until the end, and Maria’s perspective on it will earn readers’ sympathy, even when she eavesdrops on him. She becomes more unhinged as the story continues; Handy doesn’t make it easy for readers, who will wonder whether Maria is possessed by the need to find Edwina’s truth, by a vengeful spirit, or perhaps by both.
A mystery novel with a sympathetic protagonist whose apparent descent into madness makes her no less riveting.
Spy Car and Other Poems is Lynne Handy’s debut chapbook. The locales of her poetry range from an excavation site in Greece to a modern city street where she finds Tupac’s rose thrusting up through the concrete. In her work, she embodies the hard-headed realism of her Yankee forebears, but also digs into southern roots to bring forth mystery and longing. The poet’s love for history is reflected in many of her verses. Some poems are brazenly personal, revealing harsh secrets. Spy Car is a journey for the adventurous.
KIRKUS REVIEWS BOOK REVIEW:
If poetry is a car, this debut collection hums and purrs like an expertly tuned machine.
Good poetry is about pressure—how much force one can pack into, and wring from, the fewest words—and it’s clear from the get-go that Handy is fully aware of the nature of that struggle. One can hear it in “Something Like a Sonnet for Lucie Brock-Broido,” when she writes, “she lifts her pen to torque / A primer for divining spells.” Much can be divined from the poet’s choice of the verb “torque.” Another author might have opted for the more conventional word “write.” Torque, by contrast, is rotational force: the power that carries an object around a fixed point, and with this simple word, Handy gives readers a whole picture—of pen pressed down to page on the fulcrum of a poet’s knuckle. Poetry, she seems to say, is pressure and, thus, work. Her verse is chock full of such little joys, of words and phrases that, when pressed, give way to images, stories, and worlds. A high point is the title poem, in which the speaker marvels at her grandson’s rehabilitation of an old sports car: “he replaced / the brakes, ignition, clutch hydraulics, / pumps, belts, hoses, and the choke. / Its bracken chassis overhauled, / the vintage MGB positively preened.” Later, the young mechanic takes her on a ride, and they sweep “along Illinois highways, / eyes riveted through a shared windshield.” To her credit, Handy doesn’t romanticize the relationship between grandmother and grandchild, but she does show what they hold in common: the clear windshield, the road, or perhaps the work. This is a book about rehabilitating language, and readers are sure to enjoy the ride.
A book that takes old words, spruces them up, and puts them out on the highway again.
It is 1949 in a seaside town in Mexico, and Caterina lives happily as a cherished daughter of a wealthy family. She has only one worry: she has no early memories of her childhood. Increasingly, strange images drift into her mind—a gazebo, a farm, a blonde woman. She has no idea that she is really someone named Cate Miller, who was kidnapped from her Indiana farm family ten years earlier. In her fifteenth year, her life changes again. This time she will remember the past.
Cate survives an automobile accident in California that kills her Mexican parents. The police uncover her true identity and return her to her biological family, who gave her up for dead years ago. Against a backdrop of social change, Cate, who is tied to both the past and the present, struggles to achieve her dreams. A Catholic, she believes in the tenets of her faith with childlike obedience—but as she learns more of life, she finds a less orthodox route to the divine through the poems of Federico García Lorca.
This is an epic, sweeping story that sneaks up on you. It traces a complex life in a not so simple era. The themes are courageous – race, religion, guilt, loss, longing, fate, family dynamics and cultural differences. You’ll find more if you look. The story leaves you satisfied in a way you may not expect. I’m glad I picked it up. – Char
I was intrigued enough by the back cover description of this book to agree to read it. But I gave no promise that I would like it or that I would write about it.
Well… Here I am.
Writing about it.
About 50 pages into the nearly 500 page book… our little 15 year old Mexican protagonist finds her world turned completely upside down.
Curious about the lack of baby pictures and her family’s strange answers when she has questions about her early childhood memories; she isn’t hugely shocked when she discovers she is NOT the daughter of a wealthy coastal Mexican family. She is returned to her real ‘family’ and realizes her world was previously turned upside down back when she was 5 years old and was abducted away from her bland Indiana farm family.
Here she is in a 1950s Midwestern farm community. Passionately Catholic. Lively and curious, plus affectionate, well-read and in love with the poetry of her literary hero Federico Garcia Lorca. Yet her new-old-real-but-seem-fake family is stingy in their affection and at one time might have been religious but currently helped tear down the old church to farm more land.
Who are these people? And where are her true roots?
See my full review on my blog… GoodNCrazy.com
Lynne Handy has written an attention-grabbing book entitled In the Time of Peacocks. The story spans two countries, Mexico and the United States, and several generations.
We follow Catarina Montserrat y Vega as she survives a devastating automobile accident that kills her parents. Her recovery unravels an old mystery and an even larger life-changing event for her.
She yearns for her pleasant life in Gaviotas de Plata, Mexico, as she strives to accept her new life and family in the United States. We meet her mother, father and 2 sisters, who are the antithesis of her personal beliefs. Later, we meet her future husband, Joel, and her new friends, as well as several ancillary characters.
Catarina finds it difficult to accept her new life, but eventually settles on her new name, Cate Miller and her new identity in the Miller household.
“It was settled! She would be Cate Miller, probably make up with Joel, and when the time came, marry him.”
Ms. Handy weaves several social and religious issues into the lives of the characters in a way that helps the reader understand the different points of references in the story. Ms. Handy’s main characters are well defined in the narrative as well as in their dialogue.
Ms. Handy’s storytelling style is straightforward and easily read. I had to force myself to put the book down so that I could deal with other things demanding my time. Her descriptions are colorful in the Mexican scenes and very meaningful in the United States outlook.
Lynne Handy is a freelance writer and poet. She holds an undergraduate degree in history and a graduate degree in Library and Information Science. She is a member of the OLLI Writers Café, Kentucky State Poetry Society and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Now retired, she lives in Illinois, where she is working on her next book. – Katherine Boyer