Durk Nolan is a cruel specimen of a man. Taking young Celia at an early and naive age, he made her his wife but kept her in a private home deep within the swamps and ruled her by physical fear and mental terror. He abuses his three children, and is beginning to set sights on the daughter Jonie for something a bit MORE physical. His 'job' is taking dogs from peoples houses, strays, etc., and putting them into small dirty cages until he sells them to animal labs for research experiments.
It should be easy to see why Celia and her kids left, and also in reality why they ran into the man again, and finally what forced the young woman to do what she had to do to ensure her and her family's survival. However, Durk wasn't lying when he whispered threats of turning into a monster upon his death, fed from the swamp, all those years.
Pacing is fantastic - from page one it's on. The murder has just taken place and they are already on the run, looking back. It's then non-stop fear, violence, grief, and a tightly woven plot.
Everything flows together smoothly and you have to keep reading to find out which monster will pop up when you switch chapters. The atmosphere is dark, morbid, creepy. The settings of the Swamp especially. (Personal swamp fear here) Every scene is described in enough detail to make you clearly see the place, feel the wind, smell the air.
All characters are superbly developed. We truly believe Durk is the scum of the earth. Celia comes across as sweet and intelligent, just trapped and cut off from the outside world. The fantasies of the children are precious. The main caretaker, Mel, who travels with them to different destinations, has a tear-wrenching secret all his own.
One thing Ruby Jean Jensen always does is put you into the heads of all involved and makes it realistic. We see their own torments and past tortures relevant to the novel. She makes sure you like them, but that doesn't mean their lives are safe. Jensen's style is cold and dark but simple to understand and beautifully worded. Ruby Jean Jensen is not a "nice author." People who are easily disturbed should NEVER read her books. Within these pages are stories of horrid child abuse and death. Animals being tortured and killed. People you genuinely like getting slaughtered. Desperation, a sense of hopelessness, fear, and anger at all the predators of the world.
I would never call this a "light" read. Her books never are; I have read a few of them. Don't go into this one expecting a sense of peace or easy enjoyment -- because you won't get it. I had tears in my eyes on more than one occasion involving another character explored. Unfortunately her books are now harder to find and I was lucky enough to snatch up some out of print ones over the year. I don't know what happened to her but will have to look it up. She is indeed one of the most morbid authors ever, especially in other novels I've devoured.
Read with one eye on the book and the other on the evening news.