I am a fan of horror and supernatural fiction – when it’s done right. I love a story that explores good versus evil; light versus dark. I also love a good ghost story. It’s always interesting to see someone else’s take on the supernatural world and what they think is lurking behind the curtain, just off stage. With that in mind, I was asked to review “The Quiet Road” (full disclosure – I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of this review.) I was intrigued by one line in particular from the back cover synopsis – “Can he save his soul from darkness, and can he save the souls of others who cannot help themselves?” It sounded like a good place to start a story.
“The Quiet Road” tells the tale of police chief Frankford Lucas. As he is investigating a series of strange murders, he is also dealing with a mystery of his own. At night, Frank is having vivid dreams of meeting a cloaked stranger along “the quiet road” – a place Frank has visited in dreams since childhood. Each morning he wakes up to find odd items in his apartment – items that appear to be souvenirs from the murders he is investigating. To make matters worse, as he is driving to work one morning, he sees what appears to be one of the murder victims – a ghostly apparition that turns to look at him and say – “You were there”.
That is the foundation of “The Quiet Road”. There was a lot more layered on to this skeleton, but that is its root. It covered quite a few intriguing issues – it dealt with ghosts, it dealt with the devil, it dealt with demons, it deats with possession, it dealt with insanity, it dealt with family relations. But – and here is where the book started to go wrong for me – there was also quite a bit more pressed into the pages. There were dead Indians, haunted prisons, sacred spiritual grounds, reincarnated lovers, demon babies, séances, – and that was just in the last third of the book. Unfortunately, it didn’t always cover this ground in the best of ways.
I had two major issues with this book. First, was the prose itself. The author relates in the introduction that she is a clairvoyant/medium who uses fiction as a way to allow those that don’t believe in ghosts to enjoy her world. Indeed, the parts of the book where she discusses the spirit world were the most engaging. They were detailed and direct, and felt genuine. Where the story fell short was in the fiction. It’s clear that the story was secondary to the discussion of the spirit world – and the story suffered for it. It didn’t have the narrative flow and structure that I wanted. The prose was at times choppy and blunt, and hard for me to get engaged in.
Second was the over abundance of “big” ideas. As I said before, I was intrigued by some of the concepts presented here. The problem was – there were just too many of them. One after another kept hitting the reader, often without a foundation for their introduction into the story. It all served to make the book feel more like a patchwork of spiritual set pieces, than the sweeping supernatural exploration that it wanted to be.
I would have much preferred that Frame take one or two ideas and fully flesh them out. For example, one of the most insightful observations in the book came from Frank as he sat reflecting on the nature of the demons in this life:
Until human eyes opened to the fact it is the mind the Devil wants not our human flesh, the misery will go on.
This is a powerful idea that goes to the heart of where evil comes from in the world. While it is easy to equate most of the evil we see to physical actions and effects, it is truly the mind where evil takes root. The atrocities that we see in the world are merely the symptom of the problem, not the problem themselves. I wish that had been explored a little more. That one concept, in and of itself, could have carried the majority of the book. Instead, it was just one thought, buried among many in the book, that didn’t get it’s full due.
Some will find enjoyment in this book. As I said, Frame writes with a passion about the spiritual world. Where she fell short was in the functional aspects of the narrative and the prose; and a tendency to go broad instead of deep, in the exploration of the driving forces and motivations behind the story. As a story, “The Quiet Road” just did not work for me, and left me wanting. While she may be a good medium, Frame has a ways to go still on the road to becoming a good author.
*A copy of this book was provided to thewordzombie.com by the author for the purpose of this review
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