Burntown - Jennifer McMahon
Ten-year-old Miles wants to be Robin Hood.  He's playing in his backyard with a recent gift he received - a bow and arrow - while his mother suns herself nearby.  It all seems like a happy, typical Summer afternoon until a man walks up from out of the woods toward Mile's mother.  He leans over, whispers something in her ear, she looks up to smile at him and he slits her throat.  All the while wearing a chicken mask.
 

Years later, in a small mill town, Eva grows up watching her father create magical inventions in his small backyard shed.  His most famous and troublesome invention is based on plans he holds dearly.  Plans written by Thomas Edison.  Yes, the Thomas Edison, the lightbulb guy.  One of the most famous inventors of the modern world.

 
Eva's father is Miles, the now grown-up child that witnessed the brutal murder of his mother.
 
This machine, clunky and awkward and mysteriously unbelievable, can speak to the dead.  When Miles completes the build and Eva stumbles into the shed while it is running, she discovers the terrifying truth - that the machine is real.  
 
Tragedy strikes and the story becomes incredibly convoluted.  Storms rage the neighborhood and the nearby river floods, devastating everything in its path.  
 
Eva and her mother escape, but the death of Miles and Eva's brother, Errol, is the new reality that the women have to face.  They live on the streets and become involved with the infamous Fire Eaters.
 
The story gets more tangled from there and it's difficult to tell which way is up, what is truth and what is imaginary.  Unbelievable characters are introduced - a local school girl turned drug dealer, the cafeteria lady who believes herself to be part of a circus, Fred the strongman and local delivery guy, and a dangerous man known as Snake Eyes.
 
The story, while quite the page-turner, is difficult to follow at times.  Characters are introduced in a way that makes the story hard to follow at times, as the connections do not make sense until later in the novel.  Plot lines twist and turn, creating a definite page-turner, albeit a dark one.  
 
There is fantasy, romance, horror and a smidgen of comedy.  The book is a definite page turner, but not one of McMahon's best.  Burntown is a stunning blend of supernatural and thriller, but the ever-growing and complicated family tree is slightly maddening. 
 
Having read many of McMahon's books, there's one thing that can be said about this one - her ability to draw fear out of the reader is showcased incredibly in this novel.  A good read, but not her best.
 
Guest Review: By Kate Kelly