This morning, Hartford Books Examiner reviews Wendy Corsi Staub’s “Blood Red” (William Morrow).
Out today, “Blood Red” marks the first book in the prolific author’s new Mundy’s Landing trilogy, which will continue with “Blue Moon” (2016). Staub, who has written more than eighty novels under her own name and the pseudonym Wendy Markham—including “Hello, It’s Me,” which recently premiered on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel—is best known for her psychological suspense titles and will launch a new cozy mystery series, Lily Dale, with next month’s “Nine Lives” (Crooked Lane).
As “Blood Red” opens, readers are introduced to Rowan Mundy—a wife, mother, and elementary school teacher whose seemingly idyllic life is threatened when a past transgression resurfaces. It all starts with the unexpected delivery of a package containing thirteen charred disk-like items protected by a layer of crumpled newspaper: a copy of the New York Times from exactly fourteen years ago. That date is no coincidence, and whatever false hopes Rowan may have harbored die with the knowledge that somebody knows her secret—and is taunting her with it.
Of course, Mundy’s Landing is no stranger to secrets. Every year, thousands of tourists descend on the picturesque town in New York’s Hudson Valley to try their hands at solving the infamous “Sleeping Beauty murders” of 1916 in which several young, unidentified female victims were left to be discovered by unsuspecting citizens. Two and a half centuries prior to those crimes, James and Elizabeth Mundy—ancestors of Rowan’s husband, Jake—were hung at the gallows for allegedly murdering and cannibalizing their fellow colonists. Though recent years have been peaceful ones, blood will once again be spilled.
Staub excels in matters of home and hearth, and her portrayal of marriage and motherhood in turmoil grounds this book firmly in reality. Rowan, though far from perfect, will go to any lengths to protect her family—even if it means the exposure of her past sins. Equally determined, but with an entirely different (and entirely sinister) motive, is a predator unknown who has left a string bodies behind in pursuit of the ultimate victim. What ensues is an escalating tale of terror played out against the desolate, snow-covered streets of a small town that will once again make history.
“Blood Red” is an auspicious launch to the Mundy’s Landing trilogy, and Staub more than lives up to the promise by delivering both a satisfying stand-alone mystery and a tantalizing glimpse into the origins of a town that has earned its infamy yet whose darkest days remain shrouded in secrecy. The pages crackle with tension and are further elevated by palpable atmospheric embellishments, which make this one a truly chilling addition to the author’s impressive arsenal.