When the novelist answered a few weeks ago – “a witch at the Birmingham Police Department” – to my question about the subject of her upcoming novel, a ripple of anticipation fizzed through my mind. After all, that would be an unexpected juxtaposition of genres, would it not?
It would and it is, but not quite the way I anticipated. It begins quickly with a team of Birmingham police officers on patrol (an experienced male training officer and Rose, a rookie female trainee) receiving a burglary call that results in an officer-involved shooting.
The narrative mode is a fascinating stream-of-consciousness psychological anatomy, from the trainee’s point of view, of how a suspect may be shot in the back and still be ultimately found – after weeks of investigation, administrative leave, and legal process – to be justifiable. It unfolds within a context of hard-edged reality to which the reader easily adjusts, happily anticipating more twists and turns in the same vein.
But then, like an out-of-control experience on sheet ice, the story skids toward the occult, while Rose struggles to keep her sanity and reconcile her inner perceptions with normal experience. A couple of low-key paranormal harbingers of things to come during the real-time phenomenon of the burglary and pursuit make the skid both unsettling and absorbing.
The story skids toward the House of Rose (where Rose finds herself as the dominant of two surviving witches), the opposing House of Iron with its two delicious warlocks – one with vampirian overtones, and another with similar genes plus those of a sexual superman (to whom Rose is, against-her-better-judgement – and the reader’s – drawn) – and the mystery of their opposition.
The officer-involved shooting was all a setup by the minions of the House of Iron, but is woven into the plot securely enough that you’ll have to tease it out for yourself.
Solving the mystery, and stymying the House of Iron, becomes the unfinished business of the novel as the action unfolds in and around the familiar landmarks of Birmingham and the forgotten shafts and tunnels of the iron and coal industries of the area.
None of which can happen without plot twists, of course, as the most reliable character in Rose’s rookie life – her training officer – turns out to be a man of the House of Iron. And the House of Iron sexual dynamo, who attracts his prey like a spider with redeeming social graces, resuscitates himself at the story’s climax (pun unintended) as a viable character in Rose’s life, while remaining enigmatic and deliciously dangerous to the final sentence.
House of Rose is a good read. Crime fiction fans should enjoy the unexpected immersion into the occult. And readers of the occult should appreciate the analytical plunge into the cold reality of officer-involved shootings.
The book is available on-line as a pre-order (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.) before the official release date of Nov. 13. After Nov. 13, ask for it at retail book stores, where it may be in stock or available on order.