THE KEPT by James Scott. Publisher: Harper (January 7, 2014). Suspense/Thriller. Hardcover. 368 pages. ISBN 9780062236739.
A mother, who works as a midwife, returns to find her youngest daughter shot dead in front of the family farmhouse. It’s winter in rural upstate New York during the 19th century. When Elspeth Howell enters her home she discovers four of her children and her husband, Jorah, murdered in cold blood. Her 12-year-old son, who lives out in the barn, had been hiding in the pantry and witnessed the massacre. He panicked and shot his mom and then must bury his family and help assist his mom to recovery so they can leave their home behind and go after the men who killed their family.
Elspeth’s withheld a secret from her family. She stole all her children from families while working as a midwife. Now she and Caleb return to Watersbridge, the place from which she took Caleb. Will they recognize Elspeth or a preteen Caleb in this village? I do like that Elspeth disguises herself as a man to work doing some ice excavation. She gets away with it although seems to develop a crush on a co-worker. These things happen. In the meantime, Caleb takes a position at a house of ill repute thinking he’s most likely to come across the despicable men who killed his family.
“The thought of divulging anything made Elspeth queasy. Her secrets threatened to burst her at the seams every day. The constant pressure had become such an accustomed part of her that to live without it, she thought would likely deflate her and she’d collapse to the ground like an empty burlap sack.”
There’s too much mystery and too little character development. Biblical references perplex me and make my eyes glaze over. [“The fact that Jorah had seemingly memorized the entire Bible and could call up passages at will for any problem or any occasion had frustrated Elspeth, but it was impossible to criticize.”] The writing also is very simplistic and provides little description and sense of place. Is this story going anywhere? Do I care? I don’t think that I do. And that’s a problem when I’m more than 100 pages in. Also main character is Elspeth and her son Caleb meets a girl named Ellabelle. Just didn’t care enough about any of the characters to finish the novel. I cannot recommend THE KEPT.
–review by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.
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