‘The two women talked about magic as if it were real, and Jane remembered something her mother had said about Catalina, that she wasn’t just a healer but a bruja, a witch.‘
Publisher: Second Rodeo books.
Release date: November 9th 2021.
Representation: Hispanic main characters.
Trigger warnings: Racism, Sexual assault, sexual harassment, murder, blood, supernatural, witchcraft, physical assault.
Summary: Robert Cleary is a reporter waiting for his big break. When murder strikes on the outskirts of Hollywood, the neighbourhoods nearby are cursed by far more than just a Serial Killer and Robert finds himself in the middle of it all. The residents there are already struggling, and things just seem to be getting worse. There’s a killer on the loose, but is that the only reason to be afraid of the dark?
The Night Lady is a harsh look at what happens when culture and crime clash with the supernatural; proving to its readers that no one should ever be underestimated.
Reading this book took me far longer than it should of, and I want this review to reflect that it’s not because it was a bad book. In fact, in this case, it works in the book’s favour. After starting this book, I lost someone very close to me, and yet even in my grief, I was able to pick it up and continue reading even weeks after I’d put it down.
Castaneda wrote the characters exceptionally well. They didn’t feel like characters in a book; they felt like people you’d meet around town, your neighbours and your friends. I don’t have much knowledge of different Hispanic cultures, which makes me very similar to Robert. I viewed the interactions he had and his experiences in the book from a more similar point of view to his than any other.
The plot itself was very clever and kept me engaged throughout. I kept reading because I wanted to find out who the killer was. I wanted to know whether the town residents were going to be evicted. I wanted to know who or what was causing all the trouble. I felt connected with the people, and I wanted to ensure they all got their justice.
The one thing that follows the reader throughout this book is a lack of suspense. The mystery deepens; there are plot twists, surprising endings and everything else needed to create the perfect mystery; and yet as the book goes on, it gets less and less suspenseful. There is no central emotional climax. This was the main thing that stopped me from giving this a rating of four stars; I felt like I was at the top of a rollercoaster, waiting for a drop that was never going to happen.
It was still exciting to read. The lack of suspense didn’t remove the ingenuity of the reveals or the horror aspect. The supernatural element let me down; it disappeared as soon as it appeared, with no real explanations or justifications behind it. The book’s first half is spent denying one character’s connection with the supernatural when at the midpoint, it flips and leans into the relationship with no explicit flow between the two.
Overall, an exciting yet quick and easy read. I’d recommend this book for those just getting into the thriller genre or struggling with a reading block.
Shining glory: The characterisations are exceptional; they’re believable, deep, and likeable and grow as the book goes along.
Fatal flaw: There was a lack of suspense throughout, which is an issue in any supernatural, horror or mystery book.
Read this if: You want an easy read that still has you asking questions when it ends. You like realism in your supernatural thrillers and know that sometimes the stories that scare us the most are the ones we can’t always explain.
Skip this if: You want high paced, high suspense supernatural or motive driven crime that all ties together neatly in the end. You want a mystery that you can piece together yourself or prefer less character-driven stories.
One response to “ARC Review: The Night Lady, by Debra Castaneda.”
Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to produce a superb article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.