Verdict: Murder mystery and family drama brilliantly blend in Doretta Wildes’s richly told tale. BEYOND CONFUSION quilts with the fabric of Pat Conroy and Agatha Christie to create an original literary tapestry.
Author Doretta Wildes has penned a lush and affecting murder mystery/family drama with her novel, BEYOND CONFUSION. The fictional town of Swannboro, Connecticut—with its towering, prehistoric cliffs and cutting river—is the perfect setting for this tale of bad love, bad choices, and buried secrets.
We’ve seen these story elements before; small towns with dark pasts, secrets that won’t stay buried, and a dangerous undercurrent of racial tension. Master mojo storyteller Joe R. Lansdale is the reigning champion of this kind of literary crime fiction. But Wildes takes these familiar themes in new directions in BEYOND CONFUSION, using poetic prose, rich imagery, and a touch of fantasy to bring her tale of murder and betrayal to life.
Arm and Rose are brother and sister who return to Swannboro licking their wounds. Rose left a bad marriage, while Arm grieves the death of his lover. Rose’s teenage daughter, Eve, struggles to find herself, and in the process discovers clues to the unsolved 1971 murder of Taft Said, a local drug dealer/violin teacher who taught Arm how to fiddle and deflowered Rose. Rose, Arm, and Eve follow the clues to a series of unsettling truths about themselves and the fine people of Swannboro.
BEYOND CONFUSION is packed with quiet sub-text—you’ll need to re-read a paragraph or two to confirm where Wildes’s wild plot is going— as she masterfully unveils the subtle twists and turns that keep this novel humming. Is BEYOND CONFUSION a ghost story? A small-town murder mystery? A coming of age novel? BEYOND CONFUSION is all of these things and more, a surreal and subtle whodunit that channels the dysfunctional family dramas of Pat Conroy, including Conroy’s penchant for fantastic animal metaphors.
The title of the novel comes from Robert Frost’s poem, “Directive”. Here are your waters and your watering place. / Drink and be whole again beyond confusion. Indeed, this story of murder of betrayal is ultimately about healing and resurrection. Time heals wounds. Truth is bitter medicine. Art and music restore the soul. Wildes ponders the nature of divine grace with literary grace.
Murder mystery and family drama brilliantly blend in Doretta Wildes’s richly told tale. BEYOND CONFUSION quilts with the fabric of Pat Conroy and Agatha Christie to create an original literary tapestry.
~Rob Errera for IndieReader