The Tangled Bridge by Rhodi Hawk is a paranormal thriller (available October 30, 2012).
Lapses in time are par for the course for Madeleine LaBlanc and out of body experiences are becoming more and more common. A family legacy has left her in league with a river devil, whom she calls Severin, but she’s not quite sure if the river spirit is friend or foe. As the novel opens, Madeleine loses time and finds herself at the scene of a murder by the levee. As she and her boyfriend Ethan wait for the police, Severin shows her a vision.
“You called for me,” Severin said.
But of course Madeleine hadn’t. In fact, she’d never summoned the river devil, and likely never would.
She said in her mind, “I didn’t summon you. I was just thinking about you.”
But Severin said, “To think is to summon. It seems you wish to see about last night. As to why it was such.”
Severin slipped a small, grimy hand into Madeleine’s, and guided her to the pickup’s door handle. Madeleine pulled the handle and climbed inside the truck.
Or rather, her physical body did.
She settled back onto the seat and closed her eyes. Tugged. Feeling the light wobble, prying her ghost from her body
Madeleine left her shell behind and followed the river devil back in the direction of the Mississippi, where otherworldly thorns were already starting to stretch, and blacken, and curl into tunnels.”
Severin takes Madeleine into the depths of the Mississippi, to witness Madeleine’s little nephew, who looks so much like her dead brother it hurts. She hopes he’s far away and safe from the curse that seems to follow her family like a plague.
When Madeleine visits her half-brother in the hospital, in a coma because of her efforts to stop him from killing multiple people, Madeleine’s grandmother Chloe pays her a visit.
“What is this you must discuss? You’ve thought again about learning your devil?”
Madeleine eyed her but didn’t answer immediately. The two flies vibrated in the space between the window and the blackout curtains.
“Not really,” Madeleine said. “We have a bargain now. Severin and I. Seems to be working.”
Chloe said, “Madeleine. You pretend so much. Why you come to me with stupid questions? You can learn answers to much better questions, in a way that no one else in the entire world can. You alone can exist in the briar with your river devil. This is a gift you squander.”
“Right now I just want to know if there are others like our bloodline.”
“Others! Stupid! No, girl, our family is all there is. You still don’t see? This is why it is powerful. If others could do what you can it would undermine you. Outside your bloodline, the lumens are the only ones who can tap the briar. That is why they weaken you.” Chloe leaned forward. “You really want to know? You learn the ways of your devil, yanh? The river devil shows you answers even to stupid questions.”
Madeleine said, “We’ve worked out a schedule. Severin only comes during certain windows of time, and I give her my full attention when she does. After that, she leaves me alone so I can function in the real world.”
“Oh, you believe that, do you? Tell me, Madeleine, do you really think that river devil will continue to honor that bargain? How long do you have before you’re at her mercy?”
Chloe insists that Madeleine is the last with this power, and Madeleine is determined not to let Chloe find out about her nephew.
“Chloe lowered her voice to a growl. “Bah! A waste. You do not care what happens! Generations of children who squander gifts.”
“I didn’t ask for any of this.”
“You didn’t ask! You have a gift; it is your duty to use it. You too lazy. You should make babies with that worthless man and bring them to me. I will raise them to be gods.”
“If I ever did have a child, Chloe, you can bet I would keep it far away from you.”
Chloe insists that the river devil is using her bargain to draw her deeper into the briar, and tells Madeleine that to keep from going mad, she must allow Chloe to teach her. Madeleine has powerful gifts, to be sure, but she’s not convinced that Chloe wants her to hone her gifts for the right reason.
In fact, Chloe wants to use the family’s magic for dubious means and she needs Madeleine to do it.
As the narrative switches from present to past and back, the violence escalates, and Madeleine must decide if blood really is thicker than water. The briar has finally come out into the material world, and it’s hungry.
Madeleine must choose to drown or navigate the murky waters of family secrets and great power that go back hundreds of years, and the ties that bind will do their best to drag her down into the darkness.
The Tangled Bridge is as much a supernatural story as it is a story about family secrets and what family means. The story can get a bit, well, tangled at times, but ultimately it’s a testament to one woman’s strength in the face of diabolical evil.
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