By: Gail Lukasik
Publisher: Five Star
Publishing Date: June 2012
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: July 2012
The beginning of this particular novel is the tale of the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of Native American nations from the southeastern U.S. across the country. We begin with a woman who has become obsessed with that story. The reason? She has purchased an old - almost-falling-down farmhouse in rural Illinois. Professor Karen Caffrey discovered something very unique during the restoration of this old house - painted murals found under layers of wallpaper. These murals depict some very odd Native American scenes, including those of faces staring out windows and frightening blackbirds in the trees.
Emily Lord Braun was the woman who owned this farmhouse back in the 1800’s. Emily had many secrets, from her time at the Wolcott Female Academy in Litchfield, Connecticut to her Illinois life, and Emily kept diaries of the twists and turns she lived through. This diary is still in existence…but a few very important pages have gone missing.
When Karen has an accident, her sister Rose shows up to sell the house and tie up any loose ends that she needs to in order to put this horrible event in the past. But what she finds when she gets to Anna, Illinois scares her to death. From a Braun family member who has become an eerie stalker, to the murals, to the restorer by the name of Alex Hague who her sister had paid to uncover the murals and find out more about them…everything seems to be a mystery set upon another mystery. Although Rose originally doesn’t care about the murals or the work her sister had done before having her ‘accident,’ she soon finds herself just as obsessed with Emily Braun. The obsession grows when she learns that Emily Braun’s body is not in her marked grave at the 1836 Trail of Tears Camp Ground Cemetery.
The quest for a seriously huge treasure from the 16th century is the part of the story that had me absolutely riveted. But from the word ‘go,’ readers will be very intrigued as they learn the step-by-step of how a 19th century Illinois farmhouse fits in with an historical event of mammoth proportions. The cover fits the book to a ‘tee.’ When readers look at this one on the shelves, they will be as drawn to that abandoned farmhouse as they were the Bates Motel! For the historical context and the strength of Emily Braun, this book is a mystery that I won’t soon forget.
Quill Says: This book is the author's first stand-alone mystery and she does a fantastic job of writing and characterization. Previously, she has written the Leigh Girard Mystery Series. Good luck with this new addition to her accomplishments.