|J.M. Morris: The Lonely Places|
(Paperback), ISBN 0-440-23736-X
After nearly two years in an abusive relationship with Matt, Ruth finds the strength to leave him. Her brother, Alex, her best friend throughout her life, helps her get away and cope with the aftermath of the break-up. Alex takes a teaching position at a town a few hours away, then a few weeks later, suddenly vanishes. Ruth and Alex talked on the phone nearly daily, so this silence, so very unlike him, worries her. She goes to Greenwell to check on him, but she finds no sign of him. Absent from work without notice, his friend and coworker Liz also worries about him.
Ruth tries to track Alex down, but everyone she talks to -- the landlord, the headmaster at the school Alex teaches at, the police -- stonewall her. Out at dinner one night, Ruth freaks out after seeing Matt walk by the restaurant, and then the nightmares begin. A phone call directs her to meet the caller at an abandoned railway station, where she sees a hanged corpse. But when she calls the police and they investigate, they find nothing.
Liz befriends Ruth, which gives Ruth a much needed sounding board. Ever since arriving in Greenwell, Ruth has been plagued by bizarre signs and omens. She keeps seeing a gray man -- a local legend. According to the superstition, if a person sees the gray man's face, then that person dies soon thereafter. Also, as she drove into town, Ruth struck a hare with her car; a hare brooch later shows up in Ruth's possessions. Beset by the nightmares, present stress and persecutions, and her past, Ruth's world continues to fray bit by bit. And Alex's whereabouts remain a mystery.
J.M. Morris weaves a wonderfully complex mystery in this book. It begins straightforwardly enough, but soon Ruth's past, present and dreams slip into one another. Just as Ruth finds it to be a difficult time sorting everything out, so does the reader. Just when you think you're headed for a predictable conclusion, a twist on the last page puts a very fitting end to the tale. And after reaching the tale's end, the details of the plot fit together perfectly. An excellent book -- part ghost story and part psychological thriller.
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