Michael McDowell's supernatural horror stories are beyond compare, but Wicked Stepmother is a spellbinding example of his writing sans any supernatural bent.
Set in Boston in the early 80's, this is the story of a despicable woman who sets out to destroy an entire family. The reader is privy to this information pretty much from the get-go, so the fun here is involved with how the family discovers this and if they discover it in time. While the evil Louise is plotting, the reader is rooting for the Hawke family which, after the death of their father, consists of Verity, (that's her on the cover), Cassandra and Jonathan.
While this family is not comprised of saints, I found myself rooting for them with all my heart. I also found myself yelling at them while reading-"No, don't do that! Can't you see what she's doing?", so on and so forth. Will the Hawke's catch on to Louise's evil schemes and those of her son? If they do catch on, will there be time to save the family and the family's fortune? You'll have to read Wicked Stepmother to find out!
Once again, McDowell has written a story that I found terribly difficult to put down. I ripped through 250 pages like it was nothing, and every moment I was away from this novel, all I was thinking about was getting back to it. Except of course, until the end, when I deliberately tried, unsuccessfully, to slow down to make it last. Then I came upon an ending so satisfying- it almost made up for all the grief McDowell put me through up to that point. Even though all the horror here is purely human, I think this book stands up to the phenomenal supernatural stories McDowell is known for, like The Elementals.
I cannot say enough good things about this novel-it's fun, it's fast paced, it's populated with characters that you either love, or love to hate. It has sex, drugs and rock and roll. It has cool Massachusetts settings, (which I love, as a native of the state). It has money, power and real estate. Most of all it has the scheming machinations of a Wicked Stepmother. Don't you want to see if she wins?
My highest recommendation!
You can buy your copy here: Wicked Stepmother.
*I received a free ecopy of this book from Valancourt Books in exchange for an honest review. This is it.*