It seemed only fitting after reviewing the short story “Growing Up Dead” by Sylvia Dickey Smith that, for Friday’s Forgotten Books, I bring back my 2007 review of Dance On His Grave. It is a disturbing and yet very good novel that creates a solid foundation for the very enjoyable series written by a very talented Texas author.
After the sudden death of her brother Warren due to a traffic accident, Sidra Smart comes to the small southeast Texas town of Orange to permanently close his private investigator business. Recently divorced after thirty years of a mind numbing marriage, Sidra knows absolutely nothing about private investigations or running her brothers business with the intriguing moniker of "The Third Eye: Intuitive Investigations." While she isn't sure what she is going to do with her life she knows that she isn't going to take over and run Warren's business and she isn't going back to her old life as a preacher's wife.
Somewhere during the course of that thirty year marriage that started when she was so very young, she lost her identity. It is something she wants back and just isn't sure how to get it back. She isn't alone with that problem as the visibly agitated blonde woman makes clear by showing up while Sidra is paying bills and clearing mail in Warren's old storefront office. The woman's name is Jewell Stone and Warren had just barely opened a file for her. With Warren dead, Jewell expects Sidra to take over and help her. Jewell is haunted by nightmares of a naked woman who she thinks might have been killed by her father, Roy Manly back when Jewell was a child. If the memories that come out of Jewel and her emotional pain aren't disturbing enough, while Jewell cries and talks, Sidra sees a small blue flame appear in the air over Jewell's head for a few seconds. Despite all the reasons not to get involved, Sidra eventually begins to investigate a sinister world of child abuse and possible murder far different than her experiences of bake sales and back stabbing church politics as a preacher's wife.
This is an intense read with frequent and very graphic recounts of horrible child abuse and molestation. Such scenes are intense and very disturbing and will no doubt upset a number of readers. Author Sylvia Dickey Smith details the horrific abuse over and over again to various parties throughout the entire novel while occasionally adding a little new information at the various tellings. After awhile, the graphic abuse and molestations become a bit much and could distract readers from a compelling story.
This is a shame because the main story is quite strong and would move the story along very well if allowed to do so instead of being stopped by the detailed abuse materials. The novel revolves around a thirty year old murder case and accompanying arson in the small town of Orange as well as Sidra's efforts to find herself. During the course of investigating the case, we learn quite a lot about Sidra, her relationship with her former Pastor and husband as well as the congregation, a fellow private investigator George Leger, Sidra's rather eccentric Aunt Annie, and numerous other characters along with a strong slice of life in that shadowy land full of mystique and mystery where Texas and Louisiana meet.
Evil walks in many forms in this intense novel. Full of suspense, interesting characters and a heroine trying to find herself once again, the novel delivers on all levels while disturbing repeatedly with the constant scenes of abuse and molestation. Few readers will find this a relaxing read but all will certainly find it suspenseful, intense, and not easily put down.
DANCE ON HIS GRAVE
Sylvia Dickey Smith
Paperback (also available via Kindle)
Material supplied by the author in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2007, 2012