THE POWER TO EASE PAIN
NOW – Donovan Creed and his girlfriend, Rachel, are vacationing in the North Florida area near Amelia Island, St. Alban’s Beach, to be exact. Leaving their B&B for an early evening walk, Donovan experiences an unusual feeling of peace and happiness as they pass an area of dunes. Then, it passes. Later, he experiences this same feeling in other parts of town, near a church and then the hospital. And, again, the feeling passes. When Donovan revisits these places, no such feeling surfaces, but he picks it up in yet another part of town.
NOW – Donovan suspects the phenomenon is somehow related to a missing Pennsylvania woman, Libby Vail, who supposedly has ancestral ties to the St. Alban’s area by way of Gentleman Jack Hawley, a pirate who frequented the area in the early 1700’s. Donovan takes a job as cook for the B&B, giving him an excuse to get to know the locals and investigate. And in the course of his investigation, he is compelled by the locals to hear the whole story of the paranormal feeling, from 1710 to the present. Which leads to …
THEN – The second half of the book takes place in 1710 and introduces us to Gentleman Jack Hawley, a handsome and intelligent pirate, who possesses that same paranormal ability to calm and heal that Donovan has experienced in the town NOW. And then we learn how Hawley is related to the town of St. Alban’s and how he relates to the missing girl NOW. We are exposed, in detail, to the town culture of the times as well as the culture aboard ship. We read our way through hangings, wife auctions, gun and knife fights and a full-fledge cannon fight between two ships. We meet Abby Winter and learn how her love for Hawley saves the town THEN yet curses it for 300 years at the same time, ending NOW. And we meet Rose, a seriously dark witch, who bears an eerie resemblance THEN to the specter Donovan witnesses during a severe storm NOW.
John Locke is a writer whose style you either love or hate. He is telling the story of a contract killer from that man’s POV, and our reading experience leads us to expect a psychotic who spews hate and revenge, torture and cruelty. You just don’t expect a hired assassin whose monetary worth is in the billions, who is a gourmet chef, who wants to be loved in spite of his occupation, and who will help the less fortunate in a heartbeat as long as he hasn’t been hired to off them. You expect a sadist, not a man who subjects his own body to intense pain in order to build a tolerance that might help him survive later. You expect a person of his wealth and accomplishments to stride about a mansion or a yacht. Instead, you find a man who prefers to secretly inhabit people’s attics so that he can find peace – and practice his investigative and stealth skills.
So what you get from John Locke in the Donovan Creed series is tension, terror and murder told in a straight up, droll, off the cuff manner that can horrify you one minute and have tears of laughter rolling down your cheeks the next. Creed is developed as a main protagonist whose moral compass is calibrated more than a few degrees off true north. But he adheres to his principles, hopes for the best, plans for the worst and usually has to adapt and improvise either way. And he does not apologize for who he is or what he does. I respect that approach on the part of an author.
To that end, Creed, in this novel, never kills a soul. He thinks about it a lot, plans for it quite often, but just doesn’t need to do it. In fact, he actually saves lives this time. And somehow, just as John Locke makes Creed feel good throughout the novel, his story made me feel good, too. The more the characters dealt with the paranormal healing spirit, the better I felt. Maybe it was just the power of suggestion, but I swear I had a smile on my face as I read each page.
Cover Art from Goodreads