Later, Gator

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You can tell La Cachette is a special place. No, not because it’s the self-proclaimed Psychic Capital of the World. But a place that names its children with monikers like Ember, Orli, Lysander and Serafina, e.g., has got to be more than a little eccentric. It’s Louisiana, complete with a swamp, alligators, water moccasins, a boat that carries the mail and people who claim to receive messages through otherworldly methods.

The chapters are separated by images that vaguely resemble tarot cards, each bearing cryptic messages. It properly sets the tone for the novel, subtly directing us into a world that’s not quite on the beaten path. It’s a closed-in community that hates tourists (read: outsiders) but needs their money. This world believes in magic but not God—at least there’s no mention of the Christian deity. It’s a place where children are delivered by a competent midwife rather than a licensed doctor. It’s a small town, the kind of place where people know each other’s business even without psychic powers.

So when Elora disappears into the swamp without a clue, her former best friend Grey isn’t buying it. How could that happen? In a town full of psychics?

We’re drawn to the mystery brewing here, to these queer folk and the eldritch in-between nature of a world of neither land nor water. The heat and humidity constantly cause the landscape to blur and that atmosphere lends itself very well to the enigma at the heart of this novel.

It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. The author deftly captures the heat, humidity, insular nature of this Louisiana town, swamp and the wildlife that makes up the bayou. She teases us with a precursor to the mystery of Elora’s disappearance, with the murder of two other Summer children and the mention of a long-vanished killer whose name and presence have vanished into legend. There is magic in the air, dangerous, sultry and brooding magic, the kind that’s as likely to destroy as grant life or wishes.

This is a singular debut and makes you wonder what else Ms. Sain has in store for her readers.