Bayou Whispers, the latest thriller from horror writer R.B. Wood, is the story of no-nonsense New Orleans native, Jeannine LaRue, the sole survivor of her family after the devastation brought on by Hurricane Katrina. In the aftermath of the storm, she believed she’d been saved, but soon found herself held hostage and sexually exploited, rescued months later by sheriff’s deputy Curtis Jones. Twelve years after Katrina, Jeannine is a new attorney who returns to New Orleans to save her old friend Curtis Jones—now a local thief and trafficker of stolen goods—after he is arrested for the murder of Jeannine’s captors, whose bodies have recently been found. But Jeannine discovers more than she bargained for when she uncovers a family history of dark voodoo magic and an unholy alliance with an ancient evil Haitian god.
Take a dash of horror, a pinch of supernatural thriller, lashings of magic realism and season with some urban fantasy and you have yourself a tasty gumbo otherwise known as Bayou Whispers, the latest novel from R.B. Wood.
After suffering unspeakable tragedy at the age of fourteen as Hurricane Katrina devastates her home and family, Jeannie LaRue is now a New York attorney who has long since left her New Orleans home, hoping to put the terrible memories of her ordeal behind her. She soon finds herself drawn back when a former police officer and old friend Curtis Jones is arrested for murder and has asked Jeannie to represent him. Upon her return home, she finds more than just a murder trial waiting for her, as she finds herself at odds with dangerous voodoo practitioners, undead creatures, dangerous Haitian gods and a dark family secret which changes everything she thought she knew about her old hometown.
If there is one word that summarizes what this book is not, that would be ‘boring’. The first chapter sets things off with an epic car chase, followed by a prison break, and this is probably the least action-packed sequence from then on. Things get even more interesting when Wood starts throwing golems, zombies, gods, ghouls, voodoo priests, ghost ships and giant talking snakes at us. This stuff doesn’t even take long to get introduced and there simply isn’t a point in the book for you to take a breath and put it down. It practically demands to be read in one sitting.
Where Wood really excels, however, is the characters. There are a lot, but all are richly developed and distinct and it is a joy to read about all of them, good and bad guys. Jeannie is an interesting, complex (and kick-ass) lead, but any time spent with any character in the book is a good time. As much fun as I had reading Bayou Whispers, I must confess that the book’s plot got away from me more than once. It’s not really that the plot is overly complex (although there are a lot of moving parts), it’s just that I couldn’t always follow exactly what was going on. I freely admit that it may just have been me, as this mix of fantasy and thriller is not something I read all too often, but I did find myself at multiple points questioning how a character got where they were, or what the relevance of that particular revelation was, or how there are suddenly two of that guy.
To be frank, it didn’t take much away from my enjoyment. I was just happy to be along for the ride, and I was content enough just spending time with the characters as they jumped from one insane escapade to another, but it would have been nice to have been able to make a bit more sense of proceedings.
Bayou Whispers is a blisteringly paced thrill ride of a novel, with rich characters and creativity and action in abundance. Maybe logic takes a back seat to the spectacle on occasion, but you’ll likely be having too much fun to notice.
Mort Stone’s Review
Bayou Whispers has a whole lot of story packed into a relatively short book. This latest offering from Crystal Lake Publishing by author R.B. Wood takes place in New Orleans and the devastating Katrina plays a large part in this one.
It was about twelve years ago when the Hurricane wiped out the last remaining family of Jeannine LaRue. The fourteen-year-old barely survived, but things only got worse when, instead of being rescued, she gets abducted and becomes the sex slave of two men in the swamp. After two months, it is sheriff’s deputy Curtis Jones who will become her savior.
Fast forward to the current day. Jeannine is a lawyer and she gets a call from the estranged cop-turned-criminal Jones, who wants her to represent him in a case where he is being set up for a double murder. Jeannine is about to go back to N’Orleans for the first time, but everything is about to go wrong when she has to face her past.
There is so much going on, and a huge mesh of genres—perhaps that’s why I feel I wasn’t the target audience for this story. The first 20% of the book was great, but then things started happening and I felt lost—on more than one occasion. There were many characters. Perhaps too many, at least for me, to control the flow of this fast-paced storyline. And that is why I can’t really figure out if the fault lies with the author or the reader (me, in this case).
If I had to label this one, it should be something like a Mythological-Action-Thriller-Fantasy-Horror story. You get the witches, golem, zombies, necromancer, Haitian-god, voodoo, spells, a talking snake and ghosts all in one. While this story was fairly good, it overwhelmed me, especially since I’m not a fan of fantasy.
I do think this book will have a following, though. Many twists and turns, and in the end not a bad tale at all. For that reason I have to rate this book down the middle-ish.
Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.
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