The Girl in the Maze by R. K. Jackson
Alilbi: A Division of Random House (September 2015)
292 pages; $2.99 ebook
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington
The Girl In the Maze is a genre-crushing story that’s part mystery, part thriller, with elements of horror. The result is a terribly entertaining novel about Martha Covington, a schizophrenic, who with treatment is making her way back into the workplace.
Martha has taken an internship with the Historical Society of Amberleen, Georgia. The work is to put together interviews, with the residents of Shell Heap Island, into a cohesive form to publish a book about the Geeches, who are native to the island and direct descendants of slaves who were freed after the Civil War. They’ve lived in isolation, maintaining a truly distinct culture and belief system. Still believing in magic, ghosts, and those kinds of things.
There is an eerie vibe to the story and there are times when the reader is left wondering how much of Martha’s voices are due to her medical condition and how much of it might be something else.
One of the things I liked most about the author’s writing was his way with words. Early on there’s a conversation where a character’s husband was trying to make ice cream and he says, “Can’t find the rock salt nowheres,” and his wife comments, “That’d be my husband, Horace. That man could lose a white rabbit in a coal chute.” Writing like that makes me smile. Another example: “But once Mistah Clyde made up his mind about somethin’, trying to talk him in the other direction was like tryin’ to teach a mule to dance.”
Although The Girl In the Maze is not full-on horror, it is one of the best books I’ve read in 2015. When we learn the real story of Amberleen, it all comes together in a very satisfying way.
R. K. Jackson is a former CNN Journalist who now works at Pasadena, California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He lives with his family in the Los Padres National Forest and is at work on a second Martha Covington novel, The Kiss of the Sun. Published by Alibi, a division of Random House, LLC, The Girl In the Maze is currently available only in e-book format.