The Return
by Dinah McCall, contemporary (2000)
MIRA, $6.50, ISBN 1-55166-584-0


How do you like your fiction? Fluffy and nice and everything sugary, or happy-ever-after stories with a touch of realism? The Return definitely caters to audiences clamoring for the former.

A stunning opening has a really horrifying Romeo and Juliet scenario went awry - Fancy Joslin and Turner Blair are the star-crossed couple whose attempt to escape ends with Fancy's death at the Blairs' hand and Turner killing off his own brothers and (almost) his father.

Cool.

And the daughter, Catherine, is missing.

Now, cut to the present and Catherine is back in town, trying to piece together her past. (Wonder if Jaclyn Smith is still acting - she'll be perfect for this sort of roles if the book is made into a TV movie.) She has been raised by the town "witch", and now, she herself is being seen as a witch. Camarune is definitely populated by Salem's Lot rejects. Hello? High school, anyone? It won't kill, it's even fun!

Anyway, Kate's ally is Sheriff Luke DePriest, who, needless to say, is such a hottie that it makes Kate's facing the town old biddies and stupid bigots worthwhile. Meanwhile, robberies are occurring left and right, dark secrets are waiting just to pried open by our two busybody leads, and a mob is brewing to lynch Kate. Again, people, hint: high school. And stop watching those stupid late-night B grade horror movies on cable!

Kate and Luke are very well-fleshed characters, but their romance is strictly cursory, it's just here type. The whole mad-mob tension pitch rises like a claustrophobic fog, but the whole effect is ruined by a conclusion out of a really bad, saccharinic Hallmark movie where everyone must just be happy or... damn it, just be happy! Good characterizations of the main leads is surely a good thing, but throw them in a town full of redneck stereotypes, in a plot that doesn't dare to be anything but pure mush, and the result is thick, suffocating muzak. Unmemorable Women's Fiction is what this book is. Give me Carrie anytime.

Rating: 67


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