"First, I had to get his body into the boat." This ominous opening begins a tale of secrets and lies, visions, and hovering spirits. At its center is Naomi Ash, a young woman who has come of age on the frigid banks of a western New York lake community called Train Line. Here she grows up and falls in love in a town where mediums, spiritualists, and professional clairvoyants hold "psychic fairs" to help make ends meet. When the skeleton of Peter, Naomi's ex-lover, surfaces, the mystery of his death must be uncovered. In the process, Naomi, now a clairvoyant herself, unveils a world where the secrets of the dead cannot stay buried and where her past must confront her precarious present.
From Publishers Weekly: The opening line of Ellis's debut novel, a psychological thriller, engages the reader like tossing a pork chop to a hungry dog: "First, I had to get his body into the boat." The intrigue is anchored and the suspense heightened by recurring themes of mysticism and the supernatural, centered on a complex, finely drawn mother and daughter relationship. Naomi Ash and her mother, Patsy (aka Madame Galina Ash), flee their hometown of New Orleans after Patsy's s éances cause some trouble with the police. They move to Train Line, N.Y., home to America's largest community of mediums and spiritualists, where Patsy hosts a radio show, The Mother Galina Psychic Hour. Patsy's psychic powers are only partly phony, and both she and Naomi give accurate psychic readings to clients. But while the mother often fakes it, Naomi is honestly searching for her true spiritual gifts, trying to determine whether she really has the power to contact the dead. The story alternates between present and past, revealing how Naomi met and fell in love with a graduate student from Oregon, Peter Morton. Details of his death come to light slowly as, 10 years later, in the present, his bones have been found. A police investigation closes in on Naomi, who has done all the wrong things, keeping Peter's personal effects, for instance. The story ends with a spooky calm rather than a bang, Ellis choosing an evocative, poetic and thoughtful denouement to an action-packed showdown. An excellent storyteller, this new author exhibits a gift for subtlety and suggestive understatement even when dealing with such potentially gaudy themes as clairvoyance, necromancy and murder.
(Click the arrow to listen to an excerpt from Rhian!)
Author Bio: Rhian Ellis grew up in Western New York State. She went to Oberlin College and the University of Montana, and now lives in Ithaca, NY, with her husband, the writer J. Robert Lennon, their two sons, and many chickens. Check out her website.