By Ella Smith
As the season of pumpkin spice lattes, flannel and leaves arrived, so did the season of chilling reads. Jaime Jo Wright has been one of my favorite authors for a while now, partially due to her ability to write chilling scenes that remain in your memory long after the last chapter.
Her latest book “The Premonition as Withers Farm” does not disappoint with a plethora of haunting descriptions. The book has dueling timelines – one in the early nineteen hundreds and the other in the present time – both centering around the murder of a young woman in the same small town in Michigan.
I really enjoy the characters’ development in these books. I often feel that mystery novels fail to develop main characters, but both Molly and Perliett feel like fleshed-out individuals with unique motives and attributes.
Molly especially is one of Wright’s most well-written characters. She has a level of depth to her that is hard to achieve in a mystery novel. Her doubt and complex array of flaws and strengths, as well as her inner struggle with her own ghosts, keep you invested in her development from start to finish.
The side characters are also well done. I think the present storyline is stronger in many ways, but most prevalently in its supporting characters. Between Molly’s husband Trent, her best friend Sid, and the nosy elderly lady Gladys, to name a few, the plot isn’t lacking in supporting characters to liven up dialog and heighten the plot’s intrigue.
One area that I think could have been done better is the antagonists. Neither the one in the past nor the present timeline has a compelling motivation. They feel a little out of place next to the intentionality of the protagonists. The antagonists have very little buildup and could have been hinted at more. Neither feels suspect to begin with, so it doesn’t feel as satisfying when the antagonist’s identity is revealed. In a mystery novel especially, I expect to see more hints and clues throughout the novel that click into place in the climax. That is sorely lacking in this novel and feels more like a random incident than the carefully constructed plan I was expecting.
The tone of the story, as I mentioned before, is on point. The setting contrasts the nostalgic feel of dried corn and fun fall memories with the brutality of death and the somber themes of the book. The word choice is vivid and chilling and keeps me on the edge of my seat. It’s a good choice for a cozy fall day, as long as you don’t read it on the same day as a corn maze.
The plot is intriguing with plenty of twists and turns to keep you invested. Though the ending isn’t my favorite, I do think the emotional side of the plot is especially well done and the story doesn’t lack interesting side plots that support the main storyline.
The themes are somber and difficult topics that are handled with the gravity they deserve while still supporting the plot and not derailing it. I was uncertain at first at how Wright would handle complex themes of loss, depression, miscarriage, and supernatural communication in one book, but I am impressed with the way each topic was dealt with within the storyline. The book does a good job of leading you to its conclusion naturally. “The Premonition at Withers Farm” leaves you asking important questions about what happens after death and how the answer to that question affects how we live today.
The Premonition at Withers Farm by Jaime Jo Wright is available on Amazon now.
Ella Smith is a freshmen professional writing and informational design student as well as a writer for Cedars. She enjoys a stack of good books, leatherbound journals, and a cup of tea (with lots of honey.)