Sunday, December 31, 2017

The House on Foster Hill

The House on Foster Hill (2017) is a debut novel by Jaime Jo Wright that caught my eye when I last visited the library. It combines a modern mystery with a parallel story from a century ago. In the current story line, we have Kaine Prescott. Kaine has never believed that her husband's "accident" two years ago really was accidental. But her requests for further investigation are ignored and she feels like the police...and even her family think she's unhinged when she reports that her house has been broken into and she's sure her husband's killer is responsible. But nothing is missing and there's no evidence of forced entry--things are just rearranged. She doesn't even bother to tell them when the daffodils (her favorite flower) start appearing.

Desperate for a fresh start she decides to move to her grandmother's Wisconsin hometown and buys an old house on Foster Hill through a "trusted" realtor. As soon as she sees the creepy house--which is in need of far more than the "cosmetic" repairs she was promised--she's not so sure that the police weren't right about her mental state. It doesn't help that upon her second visit to the house she's greeted by a bunch of daffodils at the doorway. It looks like her past is catching up to her....and when she and her newfound friends in the small town begin tearing out dangerous woodwork to start the renovation process, the house begins to offer up a few dark secrets of its own.

Nearly 100 years ago, Kain's grandmother Ivy Thorpe has a few extraordinary experiences at the house on Foster Hill herself. Her father is a doctor and works with the police on turn-of-the-century forensics. He's also pretty liberal about letting his daughter assist him in his work. So, when an unidentified woman is found dead, stuffed in a hollow tree on the Foster property, Ivy--who has suffered devastating losses of her own--feels compelled to help the police discover the woman's identity. Even if that means she will have to work with a man she believes betrayed her brother and who broke her heart several years ago. When her father determines that "Gabriella" (as Ivy dubs her for lack of a confirmed name) had given birth in the week or so prior to her death, Ivy's mission is expanded to locating the child. But neither search is safe and Ivy's own life will be threatened before she discovers the truth about the house on Foster Hill.

This was a real page-turner for me. I enjoyed both timelines, though I must admit that I would have been perfectly happy with a book that focused on Ivy. I found her to be a much more interesting and compelling character and novel that focused completely on her time line just might have been a five-star winner. I did appreciate the way Wright tied the two time-lines together and the twist at the end did surprise me. Did not see that coming! A very strong debut novel. ★★★★

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