Karen Andersen could be envied. She has a loving husband, wonderful children with a new arrival to light up her life, and a home near the coast to ease her mind on days when the gray sets in. Yet there’s a secret pain that Karen carries with her, carried from another coast of a place she can never forget: Mateguas.
After the terrifying ordeals of her time there, Karen knows she has to return; it’s the only way to put down her torments for good. Will Karen do what must be done? Is her son doomed to be cursed by her mistakes? These questions and more are answered in Ghosts of Mateguas by Linda Watkins, another story in the Mateguas Island series.
It’s a vivid and poetic read that beautifully channels modern supernatural melodrama. There’s a real mystery at hand, and it’s time for her to Karen to face her demons, literally. Rest assured: she’s not a perfect, Mary Sue-like character; she has flaws and a lot of relatability and humanity to her, even if she has got a lot going for her in life. Supernatural aside, it’s by no means an unrealistic set-up and it’s easy to be swept into her shoes.
It’s not just the deeply sympathetic characterization or the captivating plot that makes the read so engaging, either, but also the evocative setting that, appropriately, takes on a life of its own. The book has been written with the kind of understanding that often comes only with heavy research or long-term familiarity or parochiality. It comes as little surprise that the ghostly Mateguas Island is based closely on Watkins’ years in Chebeague Island, Maine, and the distinct flavor of the place is reproduced fantastically.
The presentation and editing of the book is fairly superb across the board. While the cover does feel a little basic, it captures the feel of the book and does signpost the haunting yet quietly gorgeous tone.
Mateguas is adult without being egregious, and creepy without spoiling the horror with common pitfalls of its peers. It won’t be for everyone, by any means, with its blend of escapism, a mature femininity, and coastal-set horror. The book can also edge a little on the over-emotive despite largely succeeding its soulful prose.
Watkins plays to some deeply apparent strengths in this series, and Ghosts of Mateguas is another home-run of a title. Anyone looking for something different along the lines of Shirley Jackson or Stephen King, your prayers have been answered. Ghosts of Mateguas stands as a spellbinding exemplar of modern Gothic Americana.
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