(Image from Barnes & Noble)
"I worked with wild animals. I lived at the end of the quietest street in the most remote village I could find. I made a point of not knowing the names of my neighbors. I did my shopping by mail order. What exactly did I have to do to be left alone?" (68)
All Clara Benning wants is for people to leave her be. Marked by a vicious facial scar, she can do without all the staring, the gossip, and the questions, thank you very much. The animals she tends at the wildlife hospital don't care what she looks like. It's with them that the 30-year-old veterinary surgeon prefers to spend her time. Only they know the truth—beneath Clara's stern aloofness lies a woman who is smart, compassionate, generous, and deeply lonely.
Clara's precious solitude is shattered by a sudden influx of snakes in the small English village where she lives. A horrified mother calls Clara when she discovers a coiled reptile in her baby's crib. When a local man dies from an apparent snakebite, her expertise is called on once again. She's ready to pass the whole thing off as a random wildlife migration until she learns the dead man was poisoned with more venom than could ever be found in one snake. His killer is not serpentine at all, but human. Someone is using innocent snakes to fulfill their own murderous intent. But who?
Unwillingly pulled into the investigation by a charming neighbor, Clara finds some very disturbing links between the town's current crisis and a century-old local tragedy. With her quiet hamlet in an uproar and serpents slithering around every corner, even the unflinching Clara is creeped out. Can she figure out what's going on in time to save her sanity? What about her own life?
A shivery, gothic tale like Awakening—Sharon (S.J.) Bolton's second novel—is probably more suited to Halloween than Independence Day reading. Still. If you like eerie thrillers, you can't go wrong with Bolton. She always delivers. Awakening is no exception. The story is tense, exciting, and can't-stop-now compelling. Clara is a wholly sympathetic heroine, a character for which it's easy to root. She's complex and contradictory, making her just as intriguing as the mystery she's trying to solve. I would love to see her as a serial character as I feel like I've only just begun to scratch the surface of what makes her tick. Story-wise, Awakening delivers twists that are not jaw-dropping but still unexpected. With interesting characters, a twisty mystery, and a sinister vibe that will have you quaking under your covers, Awakening is another satisfying thriller from a genre master.
(Readalikes: Reminds me of Sacrifice by Sharon (S.J.) Bolton)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (a dozen or so F-bombs plus milder expletives), violence, and blood/gore
To the FTC, with love: Another library