The Locktender's House
Random House, Apr 2008, $25.00
In Greensboro, North Carolina Janice Witherspoon lives in her boyfriend’s apartment while he serves in Iraq. She prays everyday for his safe return, but her prayers are unanswered when her boyfriend, "Private Danks," dies in the war. Janice has no time to mourn her loss; as his family kicks her out of his apartment.
With no place to go, but in need of closure by seeing her beloved’s corpse, something she knows his relatives will never allow her to do, Janice drives to Dover where the dead military are snuck into the country. By the time she reaches Pennsylvania, Janice realizes she has lost her grip on sanity. She decides to take a respite and finds an abandoned Locktender’s House overlooking a canal lock. She soon meets rustic sculptor, Stephen Gainy; these two lonely people forge a relationship, but it is the voice and dulcimer playing of an eccentric evanescent eerie female she hears that has her dreaming again of life not death as Janice begins to explore her family’s tragic past at these locks at the beginning of the previous century.
This psychological suspense horror thriller takes its time to fully introduce the audience to Janice and through her memories Private Danks. Once readers understand how far Janice’s depression is driving her over the edge making the veil between reality and illusion vanish, we will appreciate Steven Sherrill’s superb setup that takes readers on a journey into the mind of a griever who is not allowed to grieve. This is an excellent character study of the cost of death turning survivors into the living dead who seem to make their own reality or then again perhaps the ghostly horrific past consumes energy to arise whenever tragedy leaves the present vulnerable.