Monday, February 12, 2018

Book Review: 'Rock Spider' by Mira Gibson

Los Angeles author/screenwriter/playwright Mira Gibson gained her schooling skills at Bard College and form there tested her talent (very successfully) with acceptance into Youngblood, the playwrights group at Ensemble Studio Theatre (NYC). Her successes in playwriting are impressive and those skills require for a drama to be played out on the stage or the screen is part of what makes her novels work so exceptionally well. Her sense of dramatic timing, introducing characters and allowing them to develop in the context of the suspenseful plot is a trait too often missing form novels by those without the benefit of the drama skills Mira owns. She seems to intuit suspense, an affinity for the borderline credible versus fantasy, and yet at the same time offer her stories in an atmosphere that allows the reader to feel familiar with the setting. She has published five novels, ROCK SPIDER is her latest, and it is one of the books she has placed in a series she calls ‘A New Hampshire Series’.

One of the keen aspects of the manner in which Mira creates her story is her choice to make the main event of the tale to follow in a credible Prologue. “Warped asphalt, marred with shallow potholes and buckled with frost heaves - the scars of harsh winters and brief sweltering summers, - unfolded under a shock of headlights like a story she could recite. It didn’t matter that a ghostly shroud of fog had crept in from the lake, clouding the road, or that the windshield was blurred with condensation. Gertrude knew every bump, its relationship to each bend, dip, and swell. Poor suspension on her old Audi had her anticipating the jolts and jerks. Her body was programmed to tense, to lean into the wheel, her chin to its clammy plastic, her hands in a white-knuckle grip….POW. Gertrude startled the second she heard it. The sound of the gunshot cut through her foggy thoughts - the fragments and images of their bizarrely rehearsed and even more bizarrely executed confrontation with their parents - that had been distracting her the entire drive home.’ The scene is tense but Mira lets the tension mount slowly until ‘the event’.

Best to turn to her synopsis: ‘In the chill of a foggy night, life as Gertrude Inman knows it ends when her car crashes into the murky waters of a quiet lake, killing her teenaged sister. Though she survives, she has no memory of the accident or the long, disturbing night leading up to it. Returning to her position as a social worker, she's assigned only one case: to assess the home of a reclusive family where a ten-year old girl died by suicide. The mother is a former Hollywood starlet, the father a retired cop, but it's their seventeen-year old daughter - a peculiar girl with a cunning smile and a mysterious hold on the family - who reminds Gertrude of horrifying, fragmented memories. And this seemingly straightforward case launches her into an investigation that will threaten the very fabric of her sanity. Jake Livingston has had his eye on the family and not just because he's been reporting on the strange occurrences that have been happening ever since their youngest took her own life. Men have gone missing, others are winding up in jail, and it would seem those who cross paths with the Kings are silenced in the same bizarre, ritualistic manner. If the woman from social services isn't careful, he knows she'll be next. As Gertrude delves deeper into the circumstances surrounding the suicide, it proves to be linked to a brutal crime, one far more shocking than she could have imagined because it has everything to do with the night her sister died.’

This is skilled craftsmanship – and a very entertaining and scary novel. We have a significant new voice among us. Grady Harp, April16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.