Book Report: Walking the Labyrinth by Shirley Gilmore (2017)

Book coverI got this book and four others in its series and a related stand alone novel in July 2022 in a trip that was noteworthy as I had instructed my oldest on how to parallel park, and he drove us to ABC Books. Reading the book comes at a parallel time as my youngest is completing his instruction and needs to learn how to parallel park. Will we make it to ABC Books as well? Maybe not.

At any rate, this book is the first in the series about a 10-year-old girl who moves to a small town, Turn Back, in southeast Missouri. Her father, a famous and successful mystery author, has bought an old spring resort to keep her in seclusion because every time she cries, mysterious scars on her back open, and she bleeds. She might be his daughter, though, as the author’s daughter disappeared one night in her crib and someone else apparently took her place–a larger baby whom the author raised by himself as the wife disappeared shortly thereafter.

So they come to Turn Back and try to keep to themselves, but a neighbor boy about Bucky’s age is drawn to them, and they meet his great-great grandmother who is raising him, and they start to attend the local Methodist church which leads to Bucky beginning a “prayer walk” in the city park which leads to the participants sharing dreams, first of mastadons (which stop when flooding reveals a number of mastadon fossils) and about ships (which stop when they find an ancient stone with Hittite markings on it). Along the way, hints of a greater mystery are doled out: Did ancient seafarers reach the center of the United States? Why does the father keep calling Bucky Imala by accident? The major conflict, such as it is, is with a local firebrand preacher who torments the prayer walks as sinful and calls the father “the Devil.”

I am not sure that the cozy fantasy exists as a genre, but that would describe the book. It is just short of 700 pages, and for that bulk, not a lot of plot happens. To be honest, some of the characters outside the father and daughter are still kind of ciphers. But we get a lot of what it’s like living in a small town, going to church in a small town, and so on. We get chapters, chapters where the characters have dinner or hold a talent show, which doesn’t exactly drive the plot forward. But the writing is very good, and it carried me along so that I would read over a hundred pages or even two hundred pages in a sitting and only then think critically, “but what has happened?”

The book ends with a solution to one of the mysteries, but others remain for solution in future volumes.

So, gentle reader, what do you think: Will Brian J. jump right into the next volume or read something else in the interim? Stay tuned!

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