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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
by April Genevieve Tucholke
Living alone in a rambling, crumbling mansion with her twin brother Luke while their parents gallivant through Europe, Violet’s struggling to make ends meet. Their family was once one of the wealthiest in town, but the fortune was blown through long ago. When she advertises their guest house for rental, she doesn’t anticipate any takers, but to her surprise a boy her age quickly snaps it up. Paying in cash, River avoids answering direct questions, but his crooked smile and oozing charm quickly win Violet and Luke over. River’s arrival in town, however, heralds the beginning of a series of grim and gruesome events. A child disappears. A woman in a neighboring town is burnt as a witch. The town drunk commits suicide before half the town. Violet begins to suspect that there’s something otherworldly and evil behind the handsome face of River, but even his confessions of past crimes can’t stop her unnatural attraction to him.
This book is…uneven. It starts out pretty well, with a rich gothic atmosphere that compliments Violet’s isolation and feelings of loss. Violet is a girl surrounded by ghosts. She’s haunted by the memory of her grandmother, who passed away a few years before the story starts. The house itself is but a ghost of its former glory. She and her brother are notorious in town due to the history of their family, whose past deeds overshadow the living. It’s little wonder that such a girl would instantly latch onto the first young man who penetrates the fog surrounding her. Violet’s introvert streak is so strong that even as River’s dark side comes closer to the surface, the reader can understand why she clings to him despite strong feelings of revulsion.
But at some point, the narrative becomes more focused on action and less on the dangerous relationship between Violet and River. First River’s brother comes storming in to “clean up” his sibling’s messes, and then a third ginger-headed teenager pops up out of nowhere, three hundred pages into a three hundred and fifty page book, to redeem River by taking on the role of villain. This third character might as well have “Deus Ex Machina” tattooed on his forehead, since the only purpose of his character is to make River seem less evil and therefore acceptable as a romantic interest. Once he arrives on stage, the story hastily rushes to an unsatisfying conclusion.
This story feels like a standalone novel, but I’ve heard that it’s the first in a series. I won’t continue with it, but if you’re curious the next book will be titled Between the Spark and the Burn and should be coming out in August of this year.
3 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Movie: Les Misérables
2012: 15 Great Works of Literature-Inspired Nail Art
2011: Closing down for end of year Festivus…
2010: News: Seriously Cool Pop-Up Book
2009: College Girl by Patricia Weitz