The Legend of Rachel Petersen
by J.T. Baroni
Product Description (from Amazon.com):
Did his book raise the dead? Outraged when The Post Gazette overlooks him for a promotion, thirty-nine year old sports writer, Christian Kane quits and moves to the country to write fiction. Inspiration flows from a grave he stumbles upon in the woods. He compiles The Legend of Rachel Petersen, a fascinating story revolving around the dead twelve year old girl lying beneath the weathered tombstone. His book becomes a Best Seller; then Hollywood makes it in to a blockbuster movie. Kane becomes rich and famous, but only to have Rachel rise from the grave to seek revenge on him for slandering her name!
When J.T. Baroni asked me to read his book, The Legend of Rachel Petersen, I said yes because I love reading dark fiction in the autumn, and The Legend of Rachel Petersen was a perfect choice.
At first, this book is the story of Christian Kane, a sports journalist who is perceived as being obsolete because of his lack of tech-savvy. He doesn’t own his own computer, and carries a cell phone only because it’s required by his boss. At first, his wife, Shelby, comes across as a bit of a bimbo. The reality is that – tech knowledge aside – neither is true. The Kanes move to the woods and Christian decides to try writing fiction.
Anyone who has ever tried to come up with a fresh take on vampires knows that doing so is incredibly difficult. Christian is no exception, and it’s because of Shelby’s insightful comments that he scraps his formulaic story. On a walk through the woods, he stumbles across the grave of a little girl, and that becomes his inspiration.
At that point what could have been an ordinary ghost story becomes the literary equivalent of nesting dolls, with stories, within stories, within stories. There’s Kane’s own novel about the story of this long-dead child’s grave being discovered by two young boys tracking a deer; then there’s the boys’ story of discovering dead girl’s – the eponymous Rachel’s – identity and the truth of her life and death, and then there’s the dual story told to them, and seen by us, that explains why she was buried in the middle of the woods.
It could be a cheesy set-up, but Baroni never lets us forget which level of the tale we’re in, and his writing voice does a good job at changing to reflect each strata of story.
Also deftly handled is the twist at the end of the novel, which surprised me even though I’d been warned that a twist was coming.
The Legend of Rachel Petersen is J.T. Baroni’s debut novel. I look forward to his next work, because this tale was gripping and ghostly in just the right proportions.
Goes well with venison stew and apple cider.