In the wake of her murder, it takes Abby Wincoff a while to figure out that what she wants the most is to be back with the parents she loves and to bring them the closure they so desperately need to ease their grief. But even in death, life is not quite out of reach. With past tense writing, short (five-or-six-page) chapters, third-person point-of-view, and a dazzling new level of plotting mastery, Birdwatcher shows off Ann Greyson’s uncanny talent exploring the darkest corner of human nature entering the perverse mind of her character Joey Marks a.k.a. Ryan Messer, a psychopath who can kill without remorse and disappear like smoke, and if the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department Detective, Philip Silverwood, is correct, Abby is not his only victim. Silverwood does not know where or when the next kill will be, or that his investigation will take him into the perverted heart of madness of a serial killer.

There’s no release from the bombardment of stimulation that begins with a missing child as Ann Greyson detonates gut level shocks with this psychological horror thriller. While vacationing in a 2-bedroom rustic log cabin, a woodland retreat off of Sellersville Drive, in the idyllic Pocono Mountains in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, Gillian and Lance Wincoff’s 12-year-old daughter, Abby, vanishes in the woods. Pressure mounts for Sheriff Andy Kirkman and his Deputies, Billy Shipley and Missy Sparks, of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office as they scramble to find the missing Abby Wincoff and come to the disturbing realization she has to be the victim of a serial killer after traces of her blood are found in the sink of an unoccupied cabin. Not only has Joey Marks chosen the woods of the Poconos as his new playground but he’s also in the area to honor his late mother who was killed by a serial killer in September 1997, when Marks was twelve years old. Ironically, Sheriff Kirkman played a role recently in solving the 19-year-old cold case murder of Joey Marks’ twenty-eight-year-old mother Susannah Rae Dirnberger a.k.a. Randee Rae Devereux, who at the time was working as a topless dancer at the now closed Classy Lady, a seedy dive bar that served lousy beer, formerly in Gouldsboro, Pennsylvania, as she was drawn to the easy money that came with dancing wearing only thong underwear, after a string of odd jobs beginning with a receptionist job at a YMCA.

Ryan Messer has the misfortune to cross paths with Estelle Rowland, the odd-looking head waitress at Victoria Station, who wears a portion of her thick salt-and-pepper, shoulder-length hair knotted in a pile held in place with a diamond-studded hair stick on the top of her head, the rest of her hair hanging loose around her neck, and black horn-rimmed glasses on the bridge of her small, crooked nose. The posh, four-diamond Victoria Station, a replica of a vintage European railroad dining car, connects to the lobby of The Stroud Inn where Messer is staying. The French chateau style red brick building with stone dressing sits atop a 350-acre mountain overlooking Pennsylvania and is an elegant five-star accommodation in Stroudsburg. Estelle takes notice of Messer looking at Abby, suspecting something wrong about it. She begins to watch him closely, even writing down the license plate number of his shabby red Chevrolet Silverado. At the end of the novel, Estelle provides a great description of Messer and his vehicle to Sheriff Kirkman which will potentially help the Abigail Wincoff case.

In an East Stroudsburg rental cabin on Wagon Trail Road near Sellersville Drive, Gail, an aspiring novelist and avid birdwatcher, types the novel Murder In The Poconos. Then starts being haunted by a ghostly entity. But that cabin is empty. The Clean As A Whistle maid, Millie Dozier, encounters Abby’s ghost there on more than one occasion. The fifty-six-year-old Creole born poor, in the small southern Louisiana bayou town of Plaquemine, has a hint of a Creole accent that gives her delivery a slight drawl and crossed eyes, which makes her awkward. After hearing a noise in the attic, Gail searches and finds a photograph of a girl on the floor recognizing the girl to be herself. Gail is a ghostwriter telling the story of her murder and the adult twelve-year old Abby Wincoff of Watchung, New Jersey would have grown up to be. Ultimately, Gail is an alter version of herself, a fabrication straight out of her imagination. And with that, Birdwatcher manages to transform a chunk of ugliness and grief into something hopeful.

A shivering elegy of death and the afterlife and about the loss of childhood innocence that is luminous. And just when you think you understand everything, a big twist comes at the end of the story when Abby’s spirit is still unable to find peace from the rippling shock of her unfortunate demise and turns away from the glowing portal to heaven light beam and embraces the darkness, which will devour all that is good in her and she will forever haunt the woods where she died and the cabin, where she was buried under the floorboard of the basement.

Birdwatcher c. 1/19

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