I met Richard Howorth at a party. He struck me as the original mild-mannered, self-effacing elementary school teacher. Very nice guy, nice wife; we share a love of cats, photography, videography and books. When he heard I like to write about books, he humbly mentioned that he had written a book, but that it was self-published and he didn’t know how or at least didn’t have the inclination to self-promote.
“Oh,” sez I, whipping out my iPhone and opening it to amazon.com, “what’s it called?”
I download it on the spot while he talks a little bit about it being set in a fictional version of nearby Deadwood and Mapleton on the Siuslaw River. A murder mystery. That seems like it might be entertaining; let’s see what we’ve got here.
Holy cow! Howorth scared the bejeebers out of me. River of Secrets isn’t really just a mystery novel; it’s more what I would call a very atmospheric psychological thriller.
“For miles the only lights she’d seen were her own headlights, burrowing deeper into the fog that blanketed the forest…She’s lost track of time, but it seemed to her she’d driven at least nine miles by now, the distance Donna had said it was to GG’s, the roadside pizza place…”
Megan is a first time school teacher who can only get a job in backwater Eudora, Oregon because she has a Past that follows her around. The teacher she is replacing committed suicide. She rents a creepy house out on Skunk Hollow Road and starts getting involved with the townspeople and her creepy class of fifth graders.
The very first week of school, Megan suspects that shy student Wesley is being abused by the people trying to adopt him. She calls Social Services, but then Wesley disappears. There are bodies in the river, dreams that seem to point the way and then don’t, or do they? Lots of rain, fog, misdirections and noises in the night that are more ominous than you can even guess.
Megan soon has a real need to go searching for answers as she she desperately tries to clear her name of a false accusation.
“The real problem was that she’d done too much. She’d set this whole things in motion with her questioning and doubting, and now she was helpless to do anything about the consequences.”
Things go from bad to worse until Megan is battling for her life with the murderer–not who I thought it was going to be but when I went back to re-read, the signposts had all been there.
River of Secrets is a dark, scary, involving mystery that certainly deserves a readership if not a cult following.