Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy
Pub. Date: June 2, 2015
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Dutton!!)
Summary: On a dark Kentucky night in 1952 exactly halfway between her fifteenth and sixteenth birthdays, Annie Holleran crosses into forbidden territory. Everyone knows Hollerans don’t go near Baines, not since Joseph Carl was buried two decades before, but, armed with a silver-handled flashlight, Annie runs through her family’s lavender fields toward the well on the Baines’ place. At the stroke of midnight, she gazes into the water in search of her future. Not finding what she had hoped for, she turns from the well and when the body she sees there in the moonlight is discovered come morning, Annie will have much to explain and a past to account for.
It was 1936, and there were seven Baine boys. That year, Annie’s aunt, Juna Crowley, with her black eyes and her long blond hair, came of age. Before Juna, Joseph Carl had been the best of all the Baine brothers. But then he looked into Juna’s eyes and they made him do things that cost innocent people their lives. Sheriff Irlene Fulkerson saw justice served—or did she?
As the lavender harvest approaches and she comes of age as Aunt Juna did in her own time, Annie’s dread mounts. Juna will come home now, to finish what she started. If Annie is to save herself, her family, and this small Kentucky town, she must prepare for Juna’s return, and the revelation of what really happened all those years ago
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Recommended for: Fans of Southern fiction with just a hint of something otherworldly
I’m a total sucker for gorgeous covers, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. So many times I’ve picked up a novel based solely on the fact that the cover caught my eye and I’m happy to admit that my shameless judgment has actually worked in my favor – I’ve discovered some amazing books this way! Let Me Die in His Footsteps is a novel I was initially drawn to because of its striking and vibrant color and I’m not sure if you’re able to tell from the picture, but the words are all scratched through. Perfect, perfect tone and I couldn’t help but post a photo on Instagram. …which of course put me in a purple mood!
Rambling aside, this is one of those wonderful moments where a pretty cover led to an even better story inside. The novel follows two Southern families through two generations and finally exposes the secrets kept between them. In the 50s old traditions are still alive and well and on the night of the halfway mark between fifteen and sixteen, Annie Holleran looks into a well to see the face of the boy she’ll marry. In the middle of the night she sneaks out of bed, crosses her family’s lavender fields, and heads for the Baines’ property well aware of the ongoing feud between the two families. Two decades earlier Juna peered into that same well and started a chain-reaction of despair and anger.
Let Me Die is one of those novels where I’m hesitant to say too much out of fear of giving away its secrets – and trust me, this is a novel you’ll want to discover all on your own – but I worry my reluctance to go into detail is going to make for a rather lackluster review when Let Me Die is actually one of the best books I’ve read this year and will absolutely be appearing again on my Top Reads of 2015 list! So please, please don’t assume that my vagueness or tight-lipped review means I hated this one. It’s actually the opposite – I loved this book to the point where I refuse to ruin it for anyone else!
Any Southern fiction worth its weight knows that it needs to have just the right amount of the supernatural, just the barest of whispers that there are Other Things that walk the earth with us and, my oh my, Lori Roy did this perfectly! Both Annie and her grandmother have the know-how and it’s this sixth sense that tells Annie something is coming, something bad. Her Aunt Juna had the know-how as well and it caused decades worth of rage and hate and anguish in the town.
Jumping back-and-forth through time, Let Me Die slowly exposes the reader to the events that set the wheels in motion: when Sarah and Juna Crowley’s little brother disappeared and later passed away, it was Juna who pointed her finger at Joseph Carl Baine. With the Baines’ reputation, few questions were asked and when Joseph Carl was sentenced to death, whispers started to spread questioning if the town did the right thing, if Joseph Carl was really to blame. Two decades later those questions are raised once more and this time the truth surfaces.
I loved this book. Can I just say that and be done? Seriously, between the excellently-crafted characters (oh, how my heart ached for this town!) to the hints of Juna’s return, Let Me Die in His Footsteps completely captivated me and there were moments where I was chilled to the core. While I wouldn’t call this one a Gothic novel, it definitely shares some elements and was deliciously wicked. Let Me Die in His Footsteps is one to watch out for this summer (a fantastic novel to stick in your beach bag!) and you can bet I’ll be recommending it for months to come!