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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review: "Alyda’s Bluff" by Cordelia Hare

Alyda’s Bluff
 by Cordelia Hare

An artist’s eye for the compelling detail shapes this novel laid down by a poet’s pen. I read slowly, pondered every word and phrase, savoured the imagery while the tendrils of intricate, human mysteries unfurled almost unnoticed until not knowing became – gently but implacably – unbearable. This historical mystery set on Canada’s Eastern Seaboard is rich in local lore and down-home charm. Shipwrecks, both historical and fictional, herald a dangerous course ahead. Time shifts gracefully and surely from the story’s present backward many decades and forward a few, through three distinct eras, each shift deepening our immersion in the world of our young narrator as well as the history she unearths.

Rianne is back with her grandparents for the summer, filling in time between jobs and clearing her head after breaking up with her longtime boyfriend in the city. Research for a local graveyard tour brings up questions, memories, and uncomfortable parallels between her own life and that of a young woman whose grave is believed to be cursed. Alyda, her coffin held down by a full stone slab and surrounded by a fence of thorny rosebushes, left behind only a few traces: a derelict house, a water-stained scrapbook, and the sad notation of a baby who survived her by only a few days. Yet the more Rianne reads and digs for source material, the more Alyda comes alive for her, and the more Rianne comes alive for us readers.

Seen purely as a mystery, this tale might lose some luster for the method of revealing the crime's solution near the end, but that's a very minor flaw in an otherwise compelling tale that views the milieu of an Anne of Green Gables story unsparingly, through the eyes of a girl forced to maturity beyond her years. 

I was spellbound from very early in this novel, and enjoyed every moment I spent in its pages.

 "Alyda's Bluff" is available at bookstores in Calgary and available online in print and all the usual ebook formats such as Amazon

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