Deborah LeBlanc’s second horror novel, Grave Intent, will chill even the coolest readers.
It begins with a gypsy ritual flashback from nineteen years ago: a baby girl is branded to ensure that she is guided safely on the other side should she meet death. Her father insists on this branding, but it is a new ritual that builds tension even when the tradition is brought about.
Nineteen years later, in present-day Louisiana, the young woman who was this branded baby is dead. The funeral is being held in Michael Savoy’s, and he is is finding it difficult to deal with the large clan of gypsies tearing everything apart. At the same time, his father comes to him begging for money to save his life from a threatening loan shark.
Finally the day of the wake arrives. Rituals are preformed, including the girl’s father placing a gold coin in the hand of the dead girl. Later, however, that the coin is stolen. Not only that, Michael’s father has disappeared. The gypsies threaten Michael and his family, telling him that they will die if they do not return the coin within forty-eight hours, or “when the second sun sets.” Caught in this trap, Michael is forced to find out what happened - and how he might be able to protect his family.
A fair amount of set-up precedes the suspense; the horror doesn’t really settle in until after a couple hundred pages. Still, unique, believable characters make it an interesting read. Readers follow Michael on edge as he is thrust into a world of monsters and zombies. All sorts of creatures come out to pla,y and in the end readers are sitting at the edges of their seats, rooting for Michael.
That the whole gypsy family nearly disappears after a while is sad. Readers will certainly hope to see them later in the novel, wishing for more when it comes to these mysterious people.
The book doesn’t plumb the depths horror fans may be used to with a Stephen King or Michael Laimo novel. You keep hoping there is more to be discovered - Leblanc sweeps you along at great , and you get just enough to understand and to make the situations intense but are left wanting.
But wanting more is not really a bad thing. Excellent prose full of terror and thrills ratchets the suspense up to an amazing ending. This is an engrossing addition to any horror collection; Deborah LeBlanc can expect a legion of fans after this promising second book.