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The Pull of the Moon by Diane Janes
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Soho Constable Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569476390
Date: 01 May 2010 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In 1972, Katy Mayfield is spending the summer with her wealthy, handsome boyfriend, Danny Ivanisovic, and his best friend, Simon Willis, at Simon's uncle's isolated country villa in Hereford, England. Danny and Simon have been hired to renovate the garden while Katy cooks and cleans house. Life is great until a runaway teenager, Trudie Finch, ingratiates herself into the group. A strange girl who is obsessed with the occult, she claims to be able to contact ghosts. Trudie soon begins to create a rift between the close friends. One by one the four hippies begin to die until only Katy remains. Many years later, at Danny's mother's deathbed, Katy is forced to relive the twisted nightmare.

After reading Diane Janes's highly suspenseful, psychologically horrifying tale of child abduction, Why Didn't You Come for Me?, I was determined to read her debut, The Pull of the Moon. I was quickly pulled into it and unable to escape until the chilling end that left me unnerved. Janes is a master at weaving an intriguing plot consisting of highly believable characters--a plot that intermittently transports the reader from 1972 to the present. Performed effortlessly, the time shifts create great suspense. Whenever Katy has contact with Betty Ivanisovic, whether it is through a letter or in person, Katy fears the dying woman is growing increasingly closer to knowing the truth about her dead son Danny. Katy's fear was so palpable that I often felt it in my own heart.

The Pull of the Moon is about secrets and the devious lengths we humans will go to keep them forever hidden, especially when they involve murder. These are the types of secrets that have the power to haunt someone for the remainder of their life, influencing their decisions about marriage, family, etc. Also, tragic events have the capability of altering the course of not just one person's life but the lives of many. Both The Pull of the Moon and Why Didn't You Come for Me? involve missing children; however, it is the latter one that specifically deals with the harmful effects on one mother in particular. Another recurring theme throughout The Pull of the Moon is that you can live with a person and never truly know who they are until it is too late.

Hippies, sťances, guitar solos, and English musician Cat Stevens were all combined to make me feel as though I had truly stepped back into the seventies. In 1972, I was living on Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina and paying a quarter to see movies such as Ben, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and The Poseidon Adventure. One of my elementary teachers complained that he'd paid a dollar to see a film. Now, nearly forty years later, I'm paying ten dollars. The Pull of the Moon also emphasizes how our lives change over the decades. Nothing stays the same. Katy laments, "Even Cat Stevens isn't Cat Stevens anymore." (After converting to Islam, he changed his name to Yusuf Islam.) His song Moonshadow plays a significant part in the storyline. Danny and Trudie sing it together when they first meet at the beach.

The moon exerts a gravitational force on the earth that influences tides and weather patterns. It also affects human behavior, pulling us towards romance, mysticism and murder. The full moon can be a symbol of horror. In Todd Ritter's Bad Moon, a vicious serial killer uses lunar landings to influence him to murder young boys throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Like The Pull of the Moon, Bad Moon also involves missing children--children who are hidden but have never been forgotten by parents who have grieved for them since the late sixties and early seventies. Furthermore, the concept of hiding a dead body and feeling guilt ridden for many years afterwards is a classic storyline. This occurs in Neil Cross's Burial where Nathan Redmond has lived for ten years with a terrible secret of burying someone in the woods.

If you enjoy psychological horror mysteries, then I highly recommend that you read the novels of Diane Janes. She writes about ordinary people whose lives spin out of control when they are thrust into horrifying situations. They must sometimes commit desperately brutal acts in order to survive. Both of Janes's novels deal with women who are forever haunted by their tragic pasts. Because it has a strong supernatural element, a surprisingly high body count, and a vicious serial killer, I probably enjoyed The Pull of the Moon the best. Nevertheless, I don't have to possess a psychic gift like Trudie Finch in order to predict that Diane Janes is destined to become a great mystery writer in the near future.

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