Friday, August 28, 2020



Archbishop Figurant gazed down the extended maple table, luminous from layer upon layer of bee’s wax. Soon they would be arriving. It was going to be a hard hitting but necessary meeting, long overdue. Abandoning protocol, he would be going against the Church’s hierarchy to expose a long-lived charade of denial and hypocrisy. No longer was he going to ram his head up his self-righteous ass. He was going to act.


Lanita entered the room with a large tray of chicken sandwiches and fruit pastries. “Oh, ‘cuse me, your Excellency. I didn’t know you were already here. I’ll be out of your way in no time.” Her words hummed with the rhythmic cadence of a Caribbean island. Neat as a pin in a freshly starched uniform and hair tucked away in a plain white turban, she slipped from point to point, smooth and efficient.


“You’re fine, Lanita. I’m trying to get my thoughts in order. You’d best put out some ashtrays. I anticipate Monsignors Flannigan and Murphy will burn up a field of tobacco when they hear what I’ve got to say.” She laughed out loud. “Maybe I should put out the whiskey, too, yes?


“No, they’ll have to survive on coffee or water today.” He smiled at her. “Be good for them.”


He and Lanita had a comfortable relationship. She had been his housekeeper for six years. He knew some of her secrets and she knew some of his. Late afternoons he often watched her from the upstairs window as she rode her bicycle home, hair fanning out in an Afro halo and a colorful skirt billowing in the wind.

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Shadow’s Way is a work of gothic intrigue and Southern mystery penned by author Barbara Frances. In this sweeping narrative of interpersonal drama, intended for mature readers, we meet Elaine Chauvier at the novel’s titular home, where she runs a bed and breakfast. Elaine is keen to hang on to Shadow’s Way, so when her half-sister Ophelia and cousin Rudy show up to visit, trouble ensues. Combining this with a mysterious Archbishop, his housekeeper and obscure identical twin, the novel progresses swiftly into a creepy and intriguing mystery as a massive hurricane approaches the Gulf Coast. A superbly haunted time awaits its readers.

Fans of Agatha Christie and her enormous ensemble casts will find many enjoyable parallels in the work and structure of author Barbara Frances. I particularly enjoyed the setting for this tale, playing on the traditional tropes of the Southern gothic genre, but also adding many flairs and twists from ghost stories, fables and psychological horror works. Both the characters and plot are multi-faceted, giving readers a lot to follow, but also a lot to gain from paying close attention to each clue and motivation. The mystery itself sometimes takes a back seat when the (often literal) ghosts and shadows take over, playing with the characters’ sensibilities and forcing them to ask much deeper questions of themselves and others. What results is an emotive but also thoughtful, spooky mystery novel. I would highly recommend Shadow’s Way to mystery and gothic fiction fans looking for something new, unique and really well crafted.

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