Alex Gordon
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Buy *Gideon* by Alex Gordon

Alex Gordon
432 pages
January 2015
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Gordon plucks the pages of history for the setting of Gideon, evoking Chicago’s “Sudden Freeze” of 1836 and paralleling the event in that city in tiny Gideon, Illinois. The freeze descends just after the townsfolk have burnt murderer Nicholas Blaine at the stake. In a place rife with superstition and an affinity for imploring the protection of “the Lady,” Blaine is proscribed a punishment worse than the usual hanging. The excessive reaction unsettles many of the men, though they are overruled by town leader Jacob Cateman. Though women and children have been safely secreted in a barn far away from the scene of the burning, when the freeze descends, it takes the lives of all the men present. But Gideon survives, family lines intact, the Cateman family retaining the power of leadership, old feuds left unresolved.

In current time, on the West Coast of the country and far from Midwestern Gideon, Lauren Reardon has just buried her beloved father, whose death from cancer was swift and painful. Now all alone in the world, Lauren is sorting through her father’s papers to close his estate when she learns something that will change her life: John Reardon was not her father’s real name. The secret he has so carefully kept will draw her inexorably toward the place he left behind many years ago. Also among her father’s few belongings, Lauren finds a leather-bound book, complete with his haunting illustrations, faces she will recognize once she returns to the town her father has run from: Gideon.

A practical, observant young woman not given to senseless fears, Lauren becomes aware of a shadowy presence, “a force” that tracks her every move. Her life is suddenly filled with uncertainty and anxiety as she is drawn back to the source, where the story began and where she hopes to find answers to her questions about her father’s change of identity. Pulled into the vortex of the past, Lauren heads to the small Midwestern town where it all began, where people still invoke the protection of “the Lady” and an unnamed force seeks the freedom to wander freely.

The eerie chill of the opening chapter remains throughout the novel, an otherworldly gathering of the known and unknown tapping into a visceral fear of the supernatural tampering with the natural world. Once the reader has walked alongside Lauren, having reason tested, experiencing this strange configuration of events, the people she encounters, many of who mistrust outsiders, the revelations that unfold suggests only one possible confrontation--a meeting she must survive or perish. Time dissolves in Gideon, is reshaped, the lines between life and death breached as though insignificant. A struggle ensues, the culmination of what began with that burning pyre marked by the onset of a deadly freeze. Lauren stares into the face of evil, the only hope of those who would escape a terrible fate in the land that time forgot.

In Gordon’s hands, the extraordinary becomes possible, characters trespassing between the boundaries of the world as a young woman walks bravely into battle with the unspeakable to free Gideon of its nightmare. Actions of the past chain a town hostage to a web of secrets and lies, generations bound by blood and horror, a great lie festering in the soil of deception in a tiny town waiting for release. Not for the faint of heart.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2015

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