Deadroads, by Robin Riopelle

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Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – March 17, 2014

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Lutie always wanted a pet ghost—but the devil’s in the details.

The Sarrazins have always stood apart from the rest of their Bayou-born neighbors. Almost as far as they prefer to stand from each other. Blessed—or cursed—with the uncanny ability to see beyond the spectral plane, Aurie has raised his children, Sol, Baz, and Lutie, in the tradition of the traiteur, finding wayward spirits and using his special gift to release them along Deadroads into the afterworld. The family, however, fractured by their clashing egos, drifted apart, scattered high and low across the continent.

But tragedy serves to bring them together. When Aurie, while investigating a series of ghastly (and ghostly) murders, is himself killed by a devil, Sol, EMT by day and traiteur by night, Baz, a traveling musician with a truly spiritual voice, and Lutie, combating her eerie visions with antipsychotics, are thrown headlong into a world of gory sprites, brilliant angels, and nefarious demons—small potatoes compared to reconciling their familial differences.

From the Louisiana swamps to the snowfields of the north and everywhere in between, Deadroads summons you onto a mysterious trail of paranormal proportions.

Thoughts:A complex and broken family. Ghosts, and different ways of dealing with them. Attempts to live a normal life despite being anything but normal. Combine this with a dark and nuanced writing style that reads very much like classic narrative mixed with a healthy dose of stream-of-consciousness, and what you come out with is a novel that is unique and stands out from a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal plots currently seen on the bookshelves today. It’s an understated novel, one that works its subtleties on you and pulls you in slowly, quietly, until you’re too entangled in the story and the brilliantly real characters to even want to pull yourself away.

It’s the characters that make the book come alive most of all. You’ve got Sol, trying to balance his EMT job with his ability and duty to banish ghosts, hard and bitter but still the epitome of the protective big brother. Baz, carefree and an amazing singer, the only one in his family who is incapable of seeing ghosts but instead has a connection to something even more incredible. And Lutie, separated from the male members of her family from a young age, adopted into another family after her mother’s death, able to bind spirits rather than banish them. The siblings haven’t been a family in years, have lived very different lives, and when the circumstances of their father’s death draw them to have to work together, it’s understandably tense and awkward. The narrative from the perspectives of each of the characters is unique, and the aspect of stream-of-consciousness observation that comes into it fits perfectly.

I’ll say this for nothing: Deadroads certainly gave my language skills a workout!  I’m pleased to know that my French skills haven’t slipped as far as I suspected, because while all the French used in this book is appropriate, given the characters and places featured, a lot of the time the only clue to meaning was context. The context was clear the vast majority of the time, however, and  even those without a working (or even semi-working) knowledge of French will still be able to enjoy the story and understand the subtleties of what’s going on, which is exactly the way secondary languages ought to be used in writing. Riopelle walked that fine line quite well.

(There was also some personal amusement at seeing mixed French and English in the same sentence, since here in New Brunswick, that’s not exactly uncommon to hear. The early line, “C’est trop chaud for singing,” made me grin, and the mix reminded me of a phrase an old French teacher mentioned to her class in high school once, overheard on the street; “J’aime ton skirt but je n’aime pas le way qu’il hang.” Parse that if you dare!)

The plot starts off fairly simple, a supernatural murder mystery that slowly draws the family back together. But the combination of all of their talents, Baz’s included, all works to turn things from, “We must destroy the ghost that killed our father” into “We need to stop getting between devils and angels!” Gradually the complexities get piled on, both mundane and supernatural, and we get to see Riopelle’s skill at subtle foreshadowing, too. None of the developments are particularly surprising, didn’t seem to come out of nowhere, but there were things that I didn’t figure out until the characters themselves did. The effect was much more impressive than forcing the reader’s perspective with first-person writing, as so many novels do; the fact that it was all written third-person but still close enough to make me feel like I was right in the thick of it myself was a real testament to the author’s abilities!

Robin Riopelle has been added to my personal list of authors to keep an eye on, because between her writing style and her ability to weave a good, dark, subtle story, I’m pretty much guaranteed some creepy entertainment. If you’re in the mood for a good horror/urban fantasy blend, then Deadroads is the novel you should be reaching for.

(Received for review from the author.)

2 comments on “Deadroads, by Robin Riopelle

  1. Pingback: July in Retrospect | Bibliotropic

  2. Pingback: Top 5 Urban Fantasy Novels I Read in 2014 | Bibliotropic

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