*Starred Review* After a night of partying, 19-year-old Ruthie awakens to a world of impossibilities: her mother, an off-the-grid hippie who rarely leaves their Vermont farm, is missing, and Ruthie is left to care for her young sister. Ruthie desperately searches their old farmhouse for clues and uncovers a hidden compartment in her mother’s room filled with frightening artifacts: a pair of strangers’ wallets, a loaded gun, and a book entitled Visitors from the Other Side: The Secret Diary of Sara Harrison Shea. The diary reveals a 100-year-old mystery lending credence to the campfire tales about their farm, the nearby Devils’ Hand rock formation, locals who have gone missing, and her mother’s warnings that bad things happen in their woods. Ruthie begins tracking her mother with the information in the wallets and soon finds links between the diary’s horrors and her mother’s disappearance. McMahon has developed a subgenre of psychological mysteries that pit female characters with humanizing strengths and vulnerabilities against old secrets posing present dangers, forcing them to confront mystery and legend in creepily seductive settings. This mystery-horror crossover is haunting, evocative, and horrifically beautiful, a triumph that shares good literary company with Karen Novak’s Five Mile House (2000), Tananarive Due’s The Good House (2003), Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale (2006), and Robert McCammon’s Speaks the Nightbird (2007).
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