I suppose it was the accident that wild, wet night on Wildmoor that got me writing this story. This…call it Gothic modern tale, complete with family curses, unquiet spirits, forbidden love – a bizarre crime, even; seasoned of course, with ’90’s grabbiness and irony.
Thus begins Erica Abeel’s Conscience Point, a marvelous tale as told by one Madelaine Shaye, a concert pianist/TV arts correspondent, who seems to have the ubiquitous “everything” a middle aged woman could want…a successful career, a great relationship with her teenage daughter, and best of all, a steamy love affair with the man of her dreams. But, as befits any good Gothic drama, things begin to unravel, and in the unraveling a slew of secrets are revealed, forcing Maddy to answer some very difficult questions about her past while making equally difficult decisions about her future.
Abeel’s writing is sharp, witty, and modern, adding a unique twist to the distinctly Gothic feel of this novel. She gets the atmosphere and the characters just right, and has a real flair for setting the scene, as well as for depicting (with just the right touch of tongue in cheek) the world of trendy New York arts and media.
Because she’s a pianist, I fell in love with Maddy immediately, and Abeel writes about music so honestly I feel she must be a player herself.
She played every scale in every key, punching holes in the stillness of Conscience Point. Paganini made people weep with the playing of a scale, Madame O once said. Arpeggios, octaves, shakes – she played them prestissimo and without the slightest break, modulations flowing from key to key. All these weeks estranged from the piano, yet the music resided in her fingers like a neglected lover who’d remained perversely loyal.
But even if you’re not a musician, there’s a story for you here… there’s a love triangle, mother-daughter relationship drama, the struggles of a 21st century career woman, the realization of a long treasured dream, all surrounded by an old fashioned Gothic style mystery, complete with a mansion in the wilderness. In less capable hands, this novel could have been an epic disaster, but Abeel deftly handles all these storylines, and keeps the action moving smartly along.
My only complaint about this novel – and I’ll admit, this is petty – is the cover. Yikes! Those abstract faces in stark black and white make me cringe. If I were choosing a book by its cover (and yes, covers influence me, especially if I have no previous information to go on) I would quickly pass this one by.
And that would be a shame, because Conscience Point is a really good read.