Chapelwood: the Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest
It is 1920 in Birmingham, Alabama, and things are not going well. The second heyday of the Klan is coming around, and they are far from the only racist group that will be infesting this city (and the rest of the country, if truth be told) in the near future. The Klan and the True Americans are not the worst things to be found in the Birmingham area, though they are the most open about it.
Reverend Davis, allegedly Christian, has a flock of believers out at the old estate known as Chapelwood. Exactly what the Reverend worships no one outside the congregation could really say . . . and probably not many within the flock could say, either. But whatever it is, it has plans for this world, and those plans involve a young woman named Ruth Stephenson, whose father has joined Chapelwood. When local Catholic priest Father Coyle manages to temporarily thwart those plans by removing Ruth from her father’s control, he is murdered by Ruth’s father.
Coyle’s murder isn’t the only one in the Birmingham area to make the news; an axe-killer whom the press nick-names “Harry the Hacker” is killing apparently random people around town; but Coyle’s murder is the important one because it attracts the attention of Coyle’s old friend, Inspector Simon Wolfe of the Quiet Society. And Inspector Wolfe knows Elizabeth Borden. And Lizzie knows a thing or two about dark cults . . . and about axes.
This is the second and final of the Borden Dispatches, which leaves me very sad. We are once again in Lovecraft country, albeit in new territory, and once again we are not given much info on what’s out there, only that we don’t want it in here. The enemy is much more human this time, or at least starts out that way, and the question is not so much can our heroes defeat the forces of darkness from outside time and space as can they save one girl? And if so, at what cost?
Priest’s writing remains excellent, the book is taut and suspenseful, and we do fear for these characters. Highly recommended.