“The Girl in the Maze” by R.K. Jackson
Synopsis: Perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Tana French, R. K. Jackson’s lyrical, twisty psychological thriller debut follows an aspiring journalist as she uncovers dark truths in a seaswept Southern town—aided by a mysterious outcast and pursued by a ruthless killer.
When Martha Covington moves to Amberleen, Georgia, after her release from a psychiatric ward, she thinks her breakdown is behind her. A small town with a rich history, Amberleen feels like a fresh start. Taking a summer internship with the local historical society, Martha is tasked with gathering the stories of the Geechee residents of nearby Shell Heap Island, the descendants of slaves who have lived by their own traditions for the last three hundred years.
As Martha delves into her work, the voices she thought she left behind start whispering again, and she begins to doubt her recovery. When a grisly murder occurs, Martha finds herself at the center of a perfect storm—and she’s the perfect suspect. Without a soul to vouch for her innocence or her sanity, Martha disappears into the wilderness, battling the pull of madness and struggling to piece together a supernatural puzzle of age-old resentments, broken promises, and cold-blooded murder. She finds an unexpected ally in a handsome young man fighting his own battles. With his help, Martha journeys through a terrifying labyrinth—to find the truth and clear her name, if she can survive to tell the tale.
4 out of 5 stars
The Girl in the Maze is a fast paced psychological thriller that keeps you engaged from beginning to end. The story begins with Martha, our protagonist, moving to a small Georgia town called Amberleen in order to pursue an internship with a historical society. Martha has just recently been released from psychiatric care after having a psychotic breakdown in her college dorm room. Her doctor has diagnosed her as schizophrenic, but assures her that as long as she takes her meds, she will be fine. Martha has always heard voices and usually sees someone she calls Lenny who is as real to her as anyone is. He whispers dark things to her and the medicine keeps him away.
She is so excited to begin recording the oral history of the Geechee people and has the opportunity to write a book about that history. She enjoys the people she works with and is settling in to her work when she starts hearing voices again. The woman who sponsored Martha’s internship is brutally killed and it seems that Martha is the killer. Not knowing who to trust, not knowing if she is innocent, she disappears into the swamp.
What I liked: This is such a great example of a Southern Gothic mystery, and was so much fun to read. The amount of research that went into the Geechee history is apparent and I appreciated that. The fight to keep their island is something relatable as it seems so much is being taken over by big business every day.
With many cultures, mental illness is not viewed with the stigma it’s viewed in the Western world. Many prophets and seers have been thought to have some sort of mental illness and such is the case with the Geechee people. The ability to see what’s not there and to talk with the spirit world is something prized, not something shunned and labeled. It was nice to see that side.
What I didn’t like: I would have liked to have known more about Martha before she came to Amberleen and what lead to her breakdown. We know very little about her family and her family’s history.
This really is a great book and a throughly enjoyable mystery.
ARC provided by NetGalley