May Cobb's debut suspense novel, Big Woods, isn't the type of book I would normally read. I'm not a fan of women or children in jeopardy novels. But, I was asked to review this one for a journal, and I'm glad I did. It was one of the best novels I read that month. It's a strong debut.
In 1989, ten-year-old Lucy Spencer disappears when she’s walking to school. She’s not the first child to disappear in the area, but most disappeared from Starrville and not Longview, Texas. None of the other children were found alive. Their bodies were found in Big Woods. But, fourteen-year-old Leah, Lucy’s older sister, is convinced Lucy is alive. The two share a birthday and a special bond. Her dreams, and a message on the computer saying “Underground. By the Woods”, convince Leah to continue to search. Her father turns to drink. Her mother gives up, but, as the months pass, Leah continues to sneak around and hunt for evidence. While the community is convinced a satanic cult is behind the kidnappings and murders, a seventy-five-year-old widow fears otherwise. Although the police won’t listen to Sylvia, Leah is willing to latch onto any clue.
Cobb tells the story of Big Woods in two voices, Leah's and that of Sylvia, the widow. While Leah's search for her missing sister is the focus of the story, Sylvia has a fascinating story to tell as well. But, Sylvia's story is one the reader will have to discover. Hers is a story with a twist. Leah is a courageous, determined teen, convinced her sister is alive.
Big Woods is an intense, heart wrenching debut. The author creates a disturbing atmosphere, using the 1980s fear of satanic cults to terrorize the small community. The compelling, suspenseful story reminded me of another powerful book in which a teenager is forced to face tragedy and grow up too quickly; William Kent Kreuger's Ordinary Grace.
May Cobb's website is www.maycobb.com
Big Woods by May Cobb. Midnight Ink, 2018. ISBN 9780738757810 (paperback), 312p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy to review for a journal.