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Fantastique Magazine Review

Sep 9, 2009

"In a genre filled with prequels, sequels, and no frills, the appearance of a strong new adult horror writer is cause for celebration. "

In a genre filled with prequels, sequels, and no frills, the appearance of a strong new adult horror writer is cause for celebration.  In a genre filled to the brim with male authors, the emergence of a female author with an original voice who isn't writing bodice ripping paranormal romances is an even greater cause for celebration.  Rhodi Hawk has arrived to change the face of horror fiction and she is a succubus.

Pacing her prose like a thriller writer yet filling it with the subtleness and intrigue usually reserved for the finest of literary fiction, Rhodi has managed to remake the Southern Gothic by using characterization and psychological terror as the cornerstone of her creepy and very disturbing first novel.  The most frightening theme in her novel, A Twisted Ladder, is the notion that you can escape nearly everything except for the genes handed down to you through your family tree.

Spanning nearly a hundred years, the reader is immersed in the rotting, moldy world of the back streets of post-hurricane New Orleans, a city which, in Ms. Hawk's hands, breathes in the mental anguish of generations who have lived and died a humid death, and exhales the fetid air of the occult.  Rhodi is an enticing author who writes with such sensual control that you are part  of the novel's landscape before you realize you've been bewitched.  You love it.  This is no Twilight but is, instead, the next step in adult horror constructed by a new writer just discovering her powers.

By page 15 a brother has made the choice to murder his sister and then kill himself.  He wrestles with his decision but once the devil in his mind convinces him to do it, the process of preparation becomes terrifying in its one track determination.  The reader feels like yelling out to warn the sister, "Don't drive out to your brother's house!"  But we know it's like talking back to a movie screen.  We can't stop the inevitable and we can't stop reading either.  The writing is dope and we're all mainlining.

"...He had to save her, spare her what he’d gone through. Was going through now.

One by one, he fit the pieces of the .12 gauge back together. He checked the clock. A full hour since he had called—plenty of time for Madeleine to get here. Adequate time to shake his resolve.

He looked at his hands, trembling, capable of murder. Those hands were familiar with this process. He’d used them to close a circuit that sent twenty thousand volts through a human body. But he’d not yet successfully completed a kill. He’d failed, and he didn’t even know whether that failure was a good thing or a bad thing.

He’d grown so weary of this oil slick in his gut, this chronic uncertainty. Wanted to be clean of it. Even the very tools that had helped him build his livelihood as an electrician—honest tools, solid and otherwise devoted to constructive work—even they had become stained. God, he wished they could be clean again.

Maddy would never know this feeling. He would save her. He could spare her this. He would take her to the womb of the  delta. They would lie down under the gray silken depths and give their bodies  to the creatures of Bayou Black, sleeping on the broad, soft bed of clay that lay beneath the forest.

“This doesn’t make sense, Marc. Just talk to her.”

Marc said, “Sororicide. That’s what you call it when you murder your sister.”

But his words were lost under the blare of the radio, and his hands kept moving as if they could guide his thoughts. Each part of the shotgun clicked into place until it once again formed a single unit. So clean now.

Marc stood, fingers shaking, and loaded the shells, half of them dropping into a snowdrift of papers. He folded the quilt, allowing the geometric shapes to glare back into the room again. He walked to the front room and checked the window.

Still no sign of her. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could wait like this. Perhaps he should get out his tools, try to scrub away the killing truth in them.

“Ah, Maddy,” he whispered.

For all those years, Bayou Black had given them sustenance. Fish, crab, snakes. Growing up, Marc and Madeleine lived like orphans, and could not have survived without hunting and fishing. Now they would lay down their own bodies to this cycle. They would take the boat out into the bayou, to a sacred place they once shared with their childhood friend. A special place. A secret place known only to them.

He would end it for her first. He would spare her any fear. Then he would turn the shotgun on himself while the creatures waited in the shadows. Together they would honor the cycle."

presented by Del Howison

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