Jennifer McMahon last visited Mysterious Galaxy in 2014 for The Winter People, an IndieNext Pick! Burntown, her latest suspense novel, involves a family haunted and damaged by multigenerational crimes, who may hold the secret to Thomas Edison’s “Spirit Phone,” a device the inventor built “to see if it is possible for personalities which have left this earth to communicate with us.” See Maryelizabeth’s review below.
One of the traits that make Jennifer McMahon’s books such compelling reads for me is her ability to suck me in to her characters’ worlds and perceptions, no matter how skewed or improbable. Burntown is no exception to this experience. Teenager Necco and her mother, Lily, become Burntown residents, part of those who live off the grid in abandoned factories and mills, after the traumatic death of Necco’s father. When danger stalks again, Necco and her unexpected allies – a high school student she only knows through their illicit transactions, a cafeteria chef with deeper ambitions, a part-time private eye, and a group of mystical women – must dig through Necco’s cloudy past for answers. -- Maryelizabeth
Forty-one-year-old school nurse Kate Cypher has returned home to rural Vermont to care for her mother, who's afflicted with Alzheimer's. On the night she arrives, a young girl is murdered--a horrific crime that eerily mirrors another from Kate's childhood. Three decades earlier, her dirt-poor friend Del--shunned and derided by classmates as "Potato Girl"--was brutally slain. Del's killer was never found, while the victim has since achieved immortality in local legends and ghost stories. Now, as this new murder investigation draws Kate irresistibly in, her past and present collide in terrifying, unexpected ways. Because nothing is quite what it seems . . . and the grim specters of her youth are far from forgotten.
Jennifer excels at stories of people haunted by the past, by regrets, and by their passions, all of which are in play in The Winter People. Sara Harrison Shea and her husband and daughter are eking out a living in small town Vermont in 1908 – when Sara’s daughter is murdered, Sara turns to the tales told by her “aunt” of a process to bring one’s loved ones back to life, even if only briefly and at a terrible cost. A century later, teenager Ruth and her younger sister, Fawn, live on the Shea farm in the shadow of the Devil’s Hand outcropping, with their mother, who vanishes overnight. Jennifer weaves the two timelines together, along with perspectives of others touched by loss and seeking gain, in a creepy suspenseful thriller.