Saturday, September 22, 2012


by Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press

It's been a few years since Vicki Delany wrote a gothic thriller. She's been busy with her Const. Molly Smith police series, set in B.C., and her Klondike mysteries. All very good reads. But it's with the standalones that Delany really shines. Indeed, sparkles.

In More Than Sorrow, we're drawn immediately into the gripping story of Hannah Manning, a journalist who's recovering at her sister's farm in Prince Edward Country after suffering a serious brain injury from a IED during her stint in Afghanistan.

Hannah's new world is frightening and foreign. She's not in control of the blinding headaches that send her to bed for hours on end. She can't read, frustrating for a journalist, but she's also lost her desire to work. She's unable to pitch in and help with the farm work, something that's starting to grate on her brother-in-law, Jake, as the young family struggles to sustain an organic farm. In fact, her young niece often has to keep an eye on her.

The doctors say it will take time; that the brain works in mysterious ways. It's not enough for Hannah and her frustration grows. She's found she can handle handwriting and starts reading her way through old journals and letters found in the attic of the old farmhouse, which had originally belonged to Jake's family but has wound its way through many other owners.

There is also the vegetables Hannah needs for the roadside store she helps maintain.
But the cellar holds something more sinister and Hannah looses herself in time when she enters the space. Many hours are unaccounted for and she's afraid to admit to what could be hallucinations. Here Delany intertwines the story of a Loyalist family that fled the States during the 1776 revolution and eventually settled in Upper Canada...Ontario. It's a fascinating story of lost wealth and position, lost family and dreams.

When a young Afghan woman, Hila, dreadfully scared in her own country, but brought to Canada to live with a family next door, becomes friends with Hannah, this leads to lengthy walks where they silently share the horrors they both left behind. When Hila goes missing and is eventually found dead, Hannah's world is once again turned upside down. She's accused of murder by a vindictive military official; she can't account for gaps in time; and eventually, her family is put in deep peril.

These are two fascinating stories -- that of Hannah and the glimpses we have of her life in the hell of war, and that of Maggie, the young Loyalist's widow who journeyed to her final resting place in Ontario. The stories intertwine as the death count rises.

Delany is an accomplished writer who draws characters that have depth and become important to the reader. The pacing helps add to the suspense and feeling of the sinister. The stakes are such that the reader is drawn in and vested until the final pages. It's a fascinating story; an intriguing plot; and, a tale that will stay with you long past the final page.

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