Nora Bliss, the hero of FIND THEM, suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. She’s frequently overwhelmed and feels like she’s drowning, so she imagines “logs”—like her loving husband, Dex, and her sister, Madeline—to keep herself afloat in rough waters. The novel opens with Nora freezing in the face of danger and nearly getting killed. Nora’s journey through FIND THEM is one of empowerment. She battles a murderous escaped convict, the spirit of a vengeful ghost, and solves an ancient mystery—all while pregnant—which gives her the inner strength and mental fortitude to live a less-anxious future. (It would be interesting to see how Nora reacts to the inherent stresses of motherhood. Will it chill her out and allow her to focus on what’s really important in life, or is she bound for a postpartum nightmare?) Retreating from the urban dangers of Washington D.C., Nora and Dex buy a haunted plot of land down the road from a prison in rural Pennsylvania. Escaped convicts and ghostly shenanigans ensue. After a vengeful spirit literally knocks Dex out of the picture, Nora must solve a cold case murder mystery to defeat the otherworldly threat, and emerges stronger from the ordeal.
Author Julia Ash has a great sense of pacing; her use of dialogue moves the story along briskly and gives insight into her characters. FIND THEM never drags. Nora can be annoying at times, but she’s certainly relatable, and watching her transform from a scared city slicker to a formidable Mountain Mamma is a joy. Ash’s prose also summons Wuthering Heights-style imagery. The wind-swept bluff where Nora and Dex build their dream/nightmare home is a secondary character in this novel, occasionally screaming out portents of doom. But predictable plot twists lessen the power of Nora’s journey. All of the tropes of paranormal fiction are here—frosty visitations, voices howling in the wind, Ouija board hijinks. Ash shows love for creepy fly infestations that haven’t been seen in fiction since Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror. In the end, FIND THEM is a well-told, if uninventive, paranormal thriller—like a great episode of 1990s spooky TV: “Medium,” “X-Files,” or “Ghost Whisper.” If Ash can break free of formulas and cliches, she has the skills to tell an amazing story.
Danger lurks around every corner for first-time ghosthunter Nora Bliss in Julia Ash’s FIND THEM, an enjoyable paranormal thriller.
~Rob Errera for IndieReader