The Blurb On The Back:
A missing girl.
A town full of psychics.
A secret that won’t stay buried …
Seventeen-year-old Grey returns to La Cachette, Louisiana – the small town where she grew up – every summer. But this time is different. Grey’s best friend Elora has been missing for months.
When Grey discovers a connection between Elora’s disappearance and a pair of grisly murders thirteen years earlier, she realises she can’t trust anyone. Not her grandmother; nor her childhood love, and least of all the stormy-eyed boy who emerges from the bayou. Magic and secrets fester beneath the surface of La Cachette and its dark and shallow lies are about to blow the town apart …
DARK AND SHALLOW LIES was released in the United Kingdom on 2nd September 2021. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
17-year-old Grey was born and spent the first eight years of her life in the small town of La Cachette in Louisiana, about 2 hours south of New Orleans and accessible only by boat. La Cachette is the Psychic Capital of the World where tourists flock for readings and to get answers about deceased loved ones and their own lives. Grey is one of the Summer Children – a group of 10 babies born over a single spring and summer – and although she’s the only one yet to manifest a psychic ability, she was born at the same time as her best friend Elora and the two have always had a close and intense friendship. Or at least, they did until the summer of the previous year when they had a furious argument that culminated in Elora punching Grey in the face.
Grey spends most of the year living with her father in Little Rock, Arkansas but returns to La Cachette every May to spend the summer with her grandmother, Honey, who runs a spiritualist bookstore. Grey used to love her summers in La Cachette but she’s been dreading this trip because she hasn’t spoken with Elora since their fight and then Elora went missing in February and no one has a clue about what happened to her.
Grey is the only one of the Summer Children who has never manifested a psychic gift and she still holds out hope that Elora is still alive because even Elora’s step-brother, Hart (a psychic empath who feels people’s emotions), believes that she’s dead. But since returning to La Cachette, Grey has been having visions of what happened on the night Elora disappeared and as she digs further into what happened the night Elora disappeared, she discovers links to the murders of her friends Ember and Orli 13 years earlier, killed by the notorious Dempsey Fontenot who disappeared shortly afterwards.
When Evie (the youngest of the Summer Children who is clairaudient, able to hear things that others can’t) warns her of a rougarou who chased Elora on the night she died and Sera and Sander (psychic artists) warn her to beware of a stranger, Grey notices a mysterious, storm-eyed boy around town – a boy who she feels strangely drawn to – but who is keeping secrets of his own.
By the end of the summer, Grey will question everything she thought she knew of her best friend and the town she grew up in, just as a hurricane threatens to destroy everything she loves …
Ginny Myers Sain’s debut YA paranormal thriller is an absorbing read with strong first person narration and a Southern gothic vibe. I believed in Grey and Elora’s relationship, Grey’s reaction to learning La Cachette’s dark past and the psychic elements but the obligatory YA love triangle is unconvincing, I wanted to see more of all the Summer Children and the pace sags at times. That said it held my attention and I’d read Sain’s next book.
There is a real Southern gothic vibe to this book, which I very much enjoyed. Sain gives La Cachette a run down feel that alters between being charming and quirky and sinister. She also does a great job of conveying the sweltering heat of a Louisiana summer, using the humidity to ratchet up the tension and the way the plot moves through the summer from May to September and the accompanying hurricane season, does increase the stakes. This is not least because she takes the time to point out the vulnerability of La Cachette to storm surges and how it was damaged by previous hurricanes (including Katrina) so that when a new storm begins to brew and comes in during the final chapters of the book, it fits in without feeling contrived.
Grey has a strong first person voice. I enjoyed the way Sain has her weave in the town’s history and the significance of the Summer Children and I also enjoyed the matter-of-fact way she deals with the various psychic abilities of the people in the town. I never doubted the strength of her friendship with Elora, which forms the backbone to the book, and I believed in her crush on Hart, which I think is well done so that when the two do become closer, it makes sense in the context of their friendship and her feelings. It also gives context to some of Grey’s actions and behaviours in the final quarter and explains why she is so reluctant to push the Summer Children (notably Evie and Case) on what happened when Elora disappeared or her grandmother on elements of the town’s past.
Unfortunately the relationship between Grey and Zale just didn’t work for me. It seems to be there partly as a means of including the obligatory YA love triangle (which is generally just not my thing) but also to level in the darker history of La Cachette’s dark history. The problem is that it’s scuppered by the ‘insta-love’ cliche which has Grey trust Zale without knowing anything about him. To be fair Sain tries to counter this later on (including with a suggestion that Zale has psychic gifts that allow him to manipulate) but the overall effect, for me was to see Grey as wildly swinging from one view of him to another with the result that she seems flaky and I was left irritated. In addition, given what we learn about La Cachette’s past and Zale’s connection to it, what is a truly horrifying event isn’t given the space it needs to land in the reader’s conscious and the pay off (which involves a discovery of something nasty that’s been hiding in plain sight for years) reads like an afterthought. It also isn’t helped by the fact that Zale’s introduction has implications for the significance of the Summer Children so that the mythology changes about three quarters of the way through.
In terms of La Cachette’s history, another frustrating thing in the book is Grey’s reluctance and failure to really press her grandmother on what happened with her mother and why she committed suicide and how that tied in with other events. Sain does establish Grey’s enough to explain this but after a while it just becomes frustrating from a plot point of view but also from a character point of view given that it does go to their relationship and as a result, when the truths start to be revealed, there’s no real sense of how that impacts on their relationship.
This reluctance of Grey to press or investigate results in the pace sagging in places and there are pages where she doesn’t do a great deal of investigating, although to be fair those scenes do go to characters, relationships and sense of place. It also means that there’s little tension between the Summer Children, which means we don’t see as much as them as I would have liked. This is particularly problematic with Evie, who plays a role in the final quarter but also means that we don’t get much of a sense of who Case is, which is a problem given that Case and Elora were dating and Hart is convinced that Case killed her because he was possessive.
The final quarter of the book plays out as the town nervously watches as a hurricane gathers strength in the Gulf of Mexico and they wait to see if it moves towards the town. Sain does well in building the sense of dread and then playing out the denouement of Elora’s disappearance against the same. There’s a good sense of the precariousness of life on the flood planes and what it means for communities facing it and, of course, adds a sense of danger and drama when it finally hits.
Ultimately, while there are flaws with this book I did find it an absorbing read that kept me turning the pages and if you’re into the Southern gothic genre where spooky things happen in sweltering conditions, then this is definitely worth a look. Certainly there was enough here for me to want to check out Sain’s next book.