In Every Paradise, a Serpent

I’m a big B.A. (Bev) Spicer fan. Her Bev & Carol travel memoirs are hilarious…I’m talking rib-bruising laughter. You can read my review of Stranded in the Seychelles HERE. Yet, as good as the memoirs are, her novels are a cut above. If you like psychological thrillers with complicated, flawed characters, she’s the writer for you.

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The Undertaker’s Son is one of her best. Set in a picturesque seaside town in Southern France, past and present come together with fatal results. On the surface, Martha Burton, a British divorcee starting over in a dreamy French town, and Claude Cousteau, an undertaker’s son in more ways than one, might as well live in different universes. But thanks to a mixture of coincidence, which in this case appears in the form of shady businessman Felix Dumas, and the rather insular nature of life in a small town, their worlds collide…and they don’t even know it.

Spicer has a knack for creating complex characters with rich, unique back stories and messy inner lives. In this novel, they also share an odd social blindness that causes them to miss the dangerous picture developing right in front of them. These men and women flit through their days caught up in personal pleasures and private concerns unaware of how their actions ripple out to affect those around them. Claude, especially, is a fascinating mix of depravity and misplaced loyalty. He’s a terrifying variety of monster–the kind who appears ordinary, even bland.

Reading THE UNDERTAKER’S SON is an engrossing experience.The tension builds like a storm out at sea that creeps towards the shore. By the final scenes, you want to squeeze your eyes shut, and yet you cannot stop reading. So you give in and are rewarded with a climax that cuts to the bone.