Book Review: The May Queen Murders, Sarah Jude (2016)

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

A Haunting Story of Love, Loss – and Severed Lips

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss.)

We’ve always been afraid he’d be drawn back to take our girls. He’d take her into the woods and make her his bride. We even wondered if we should give him one, just to make him go away for good. But of course, we couldn’t. That’d be murder.

For her entire life – and those of her ancestors, going back generations – Ivy Templeton has called Rowan’s Glen her home. An isolated community in the Ozarks, the Glen is the town that time forgot. Or rather, its residents chose to ignore time’s passage:

Most Rowan’s Glen residents long ago decided that if we couldn’t raise, craft, or repurpose it, then we wouldn’t use it. Over time, the buildings converted from no electricity to solar energy. Our clothing was handmade, came secondhand from kin or the town thrift store if splurging. Glen kind looked different from the rollers in the trailer park and the townies. We were hillfolk, with our boys in trousers and suspenders and girls clad in long skirts. Once a Missouri Ozarks outpost for Scottish travelers searching for permanency, Rowan’s Glen kept life simple and the outside world at bay.

Nevertheless, Ivy and her kin are not completely removed from the surrounding world: Rowan’s Glen residents sell their wares at the farmer’s market; her father, Timothy, runs a veterinary practice that’s open to all; and the kids of the Glen attend public school (ever since the community’s own classes, held in the church basement, were declared inadequate by the state). Occasionally, outsiders have reason to come to the Glen. Such was the case with the May Queen Murders, some twenty-five years ago.

The story goes that local “crazy” Birch Markle escaped from his basement prison on the night of the May Queen celebrations. After a lifetime spent killing animals, his violence escalated to humans. Birch killed the May Queen herself, Terra MacAvoy; he was found standing over her hideously mutilated body several days after she went missing. But before the townspeople or county police could catch him, Birch fled into the woods – which he continues to haunt to this very day. A generation later, children and adults alike are still cautioned not to go out alone at night – and not to venture into the forest at all.

It was a good place, even with the screams that sometimes came from the forest, the screams that had been there my whole life and longer.

(More below the fold…)