Desert Isle Keeper
The Shimmering Road
The Shimmering Road is Hester Young’s second novel featuring Charlotte (Charlie) Cates, a journalist who sees dark visions of the future. While this book could technically be read as a standalone, I highly recommend reading The Gates of Evangeline first in order to put The Shimmering Road into context.
Charlie and her boyfriend Noah are awaiting the birth of their daughter. Against her better judgement, Charlie has agreed to try living near Houston with Noah, but it’s not working well for her. She feels adrift, missing the hustle and bustle of New York City, and she is also still mourning her young son Keegan, who has been dead just over a year. Plus, she and Noah are trying to figure out what’s next for them and their relationship. Charlie’s pregnancy was unplanned, and the two of them don’t know each other all that well. They both have a fair amount of baggage to contend with, making life a bit of a struggle.
And as if all of this isn’t enough, Charlie is plagued by visions of a pregnant woman being shot while showering. Is the vision a warning of things to come, things that will put Charlie and her unborn child in danger, or are they simply the product of an overly anxious mind? Charlie doesn’t know the answer, but she’s determined to protect her baby at all costs.
Charlie is surprised to receive a phone call from an aunt she hasn’t spoken to in a long while. She learns that her mother, who abandoned her as an infant, was the victim of a double homicide in Tucson. At first, Charlie figures this has nothing whatsoever to do with her. She didn’t know her mother, and, quite honestly, she and Noah have enough on their plates right now, but then, Charlie learns the rest of the story. It seems she had a half-sister, the second victim of the unsolved murder, and the younger woman has left behind a six-year-old daughter. Now, Charlie and Noah are headed to Tucson to meet Charlie’s niece and figure out what can be done for the child.
Once in Tucson, Charlie begins to discover quite a bit about the mother she never knew. She’s initially pretty resistant to getting involved, but once she meets her niece, she realizes she needs to get to the bottom of things. The police are calling the murder drug-related, but friends of her mother insist she’d been clean for years. Plus, things in the witness statements aren’t adding up for Charlie, and with the help of a retired police officer – who also happened to be Charlie’s mother’s lesbian lover – she begins digging into what really happened on the night of the murders.
The Shimmering Road is a fast-paced thriller with hints of the paranormal and a strong romantic arc, and as such, is the kind of book likely to appeal to readers of various genres. At first, though, I wasn’t sure how much I’d like it. I struggle with books with strong spectral elements, and the synopsis made me think ghosts would be involved here. Fortunately, Charlie’s visions rarely feature them, and I soon found myself totally engrossed.
The author does an absolutely fantastic job in her descriptions of the book’s setting; I loved how she takes such pains to make the reader feel connected to the Arizona desert and to the Mexican border towns Charlie and Noah visit. It adds an extra layer of authenticity to the story that I really appreciated.
The relationship between Charlie and Noah is very realistic. It’s still in its early stages, and Ms. Young does a great job showing us its growing pains. It’s obvious these two people care deeply for one another, but they’re still struggling to make things work. It’s possible they want different things out of life, and those things sometimes get in the way of their feelings for one another. Their disagreements aren’t silly or childish. Instead, they paint a picture of two mature adults attempting to build a life together in the face of a lot of unknowns.
Charlie’s character is constantly evolving, making her a relatable heroine. She’s understandably bitter about her mother’s abandonment, but works hard to put those feelings behind her for the sake of her niece. She wants to build a good life for herself, Noah, and the children, but she knows she can’t do that until she’s able to put the past behind her. She’s not afraid to really look at her feelings, a very rare quality in many of today’s heroines.
I can’t say enough great things about this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for an action-packed thriller with some deep underlying themes. I hope Ms. Young decides to write a third book about Charlie, Noah, and their family. If she does, it will be an auto buy for me.