Lytherus Book Club: Maplecroft by Cherie Priest, part 2

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Sorry I’m a few days late, but I am SO excited to talk about the second half of this book! I honestly think that Maplecroft is one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read, and I absolutely adored every bit of it. REMEMBER, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS in my review, as I’m assuming you’ve read this along with us.

Just to remind us, here’s the summary of the book:

maplecroftLizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one….

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe.

Wow, does stuff hit the fan in the second half of this book (if you want to see where we’re at, here’s our coverage of the first half of the book). The second half kicks off with Nance breaking into the basement and finding the hidden stones. She goes catatonic, and Lizzie finds her and is in a panic. They summon Dr. Seabury, and the truth of the stones, and the situation, is revealed. Of course, as they’re trying to figure out what to do, Emma hears monsters outside. So out Lizzie goes, with Dr. Seabury following. We see the fight from his point of view, and he and Lizzie both have a pretty close encounter it before she manages to kill it. Off to the basement to burn it, and more truths for poor Dr. Seabury. Basically, in the middle of the book, the whole horrible situation becomes revealed to the Doctor through experience and stories. This is great, because the sisters aren’t baring it alone anymore, but they’re worried about trusting him, especially Emma. And it seems with good reason, as a few days later he brings inspector Wolf over to talk to them. The inspector has news about a killing spree and some crazy man coming to talk to the good biologist that is Emma’s pen name (which she told Dr. Seabury as well). There’s a seriously creepy letter left by Zollicoffer at one of the crime scenes, and he’s on his way.

All of these happenings are interspersed with news reports about horrible deaths and fires and other mayhem that marks Zollicoffer’s travels towards Emma. Emma decides to stay and wait it out. In the meantime the sisters and the doctor try and piece together all the different elements and symptoms, to try and make sense of just what’s happening. They also have Nance to study, who is getting no better. Dr. Seabury thinks it might be related to Tetanus in some way, as there are a lot of similar symptoms. I absolutely adored this part of the book, as it was connecting the impossible into something we can relate to, and Cherie did this wonderfully. The doctor contacts a colleague about getting some sort of vaccination to try and stave it off in Nance. He sends back both antibodies and a more concentrated toxin in hopes one might help.

In the interim while they’re waiting for the big monster Z, Nance wakes and slips into the tub, fully immersed in water. Lizzie thinks she’s drowned, until Nance looks at her. And Lizzie finds gills, and realizes that Nance was breathing under water. She’s transitioning, and has a hard time coming back, and goes comatose again once she’s removed from the tub. This might have been one of the creepiest parts of the  book for me. I could see it like a scary movie, and it was so vivid.

The rest of the book is a building climax that alternates between a bunch of points of view. The town is getting more and more people infected, and the Doctor doesn’t know what to do for them. Nance gets the antibodies, and it seems to make her a bit better, in the sense that she seems to become aware and battling in her mind with whatever’s trying to possess her. She ends up leaving to protect Lizzie from what’s inside her. Lizzie follows Nance into the ocean and is saved at the last minute by the Doctor.

Emma’s abandoned as the others chase after Nance, and Zollicoffer shows up while they’re gone, bringing lots of creepy monster minions with him. Emma manages the basement stairs and eventually Zollicoffer joins her down there, tempting her with his power and strength, as she’s so weak. We jump back to Lizzie and the Doctor as they rush back to Maplecroft, and the fight their way through the monsters into the house (there’s also more awesome science and really fun battle details), with Lizzie finally making her way down to her sister and the big baddie.

Emma has snagged one of the toxin bottles from the Doctor’s bag, and throws it on Zollicoffer. It weakens him, and Lizzie is able to wound him with her axe. She ends up cornering him and he falls into the cooker, where he’s melted by the acid.

The final chapter is like a post script from inspector Wolf, written a little over a year later. He sums up what he’s learned, which basically leaves a lot of open ends (but not in a way that leaves the reader wanting. It’s the story from the eyes of someone who wasn’t there, essentially). He also comments on Lizzie visiting the Doctor, who seems to have lost his mind.

WOW. I mean, this book does not let up! Until the final pages the tension remains, and is relentless. And as a reader, it was hard for me to never really find out what the creatures are, though we have a general idea. But that was the joy of the story, the mystery, the fear, the unknown. And it was wonderful discovering the progression through different eyes.

I’ve been raving about this book to all my book-loving friends, and I can’t say enough good things about it. Did you read along with us? What were your thoughts? I’d really love to hear what you have to say about it.

Also, stay tuned tomorrow when we post our interview with the lovely Cherie. We had a blast in the interview, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you (the back-story to the book is extremely interesting!). Don’t forget to stop back tomorrow!

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