Book of the Day
In the Valley of the Sun
Andy Davidson’s debut novel gives us yet another reason to steer clear of run-down motels off the beaten path. His novel In the Valley of the Sun (Skyhorse Publishing) is a book that you will want to read at least twice. Once for the suspenseful can’t-turn-the-pages-fast-enough plot that builds to a gripping climax. Then you will want to read it again for the gorgeous prose that immerses the reader into the bleakly beautiful West Texas landscape and gives us multifaceted characters with authentic dialogue and complex but believable motivations. Davidson infuses a police-procedural plotline with a new twist on the vampire mythos, while simultaneously providing readers with fresh insights on the darker side of the human psyche.
Haunted by his past, Travis Stillwell is both the hunter and the hunted. Travis stalks women in a series of West Texas honky-tonks until one night he comes across more than he’s bargained for. He hooks up with the mysterious Rue, who leads him back to his cab-over camper. The next morning, Travis awakes to find himself bloodied and profoundly changed. Like a wounded animal, he drives off to lick his wounds and hide. He finds sanctuary in the parking lot of a decrepit motel run by the young widow Annabelle Gaskin. Tavis gradually forms a cautious relationship with Annabelle and her ten-year-old son, all the while fighting an unspeakable evil that feeds on Travis at night. Meanwhile, a Texas Ranger is on the move.
Davidson provides much more than just this plot, as exciting as it is. He deftly uses characters and setting to deepen the suspense and horror of this work. By providing the character’s backstories, which serve as interesting subplots of the story, as well as highlighting their motivations, he adds yet another layer of intrigue and suspense. The uncanny, omnipresent desert setting adds another dimension of unease and foreboding. At one point in the story, Reader, the Texas Ranger, says, “Monsters, the world’s just full of monsters.” Davidson shows us this is true, but what makes it so very terrifying is that his monsters lurk in the mundane places: a roadside honky-tonk, a cab-over camper. He gives us an abandoned swimming pool filled not only with junk but with a sense of dread. Even an ordinary turtle becomes a scary object. The sense of horror lingers well after the last page is read.
Kelly Saderholm has written, blogged, and lectured about aspects of the mystery novel. She has moderated panels and presented papers at literary conferences, on both the Mystery Novel and Urban Fantasy. She is currently writing a non-fiction book dealing with Folklore in the American South. She is a recipient of a Kentucky Foundation for Women Writer’s grant. She lives in South Central Kentucky with her family and two feline office assistants.