"Bayou Whispers" Book Review
Written by Sean M. Sanford
Published by Crystal Lake Publishing
Written by R.B. Wood
2021, 276 pages, Fiction
Released on April 29th, 2021
The bayou. It’s a world within worlds. Some good things; some bad.
One January, many moons ago, I was in Louisiana with my friend Jim. As we ticked through a marsh that felt like a roiled translation of purgatory, we’d grown tired of all the CDs we had in the car. I suddenly had to see a man about a mule (it had been a long drive). Stepping into the recesses I noticed a CD. It was just lying there in the mud. The album was called Do Tha Butt Thang. Understandably intrigued, I got back to the car and we threw it in. Holy shit, it was like haunted polka draped in a mist of funk. I’d never heard an accordion sound so seductive. That CD rarely left the radio for the rest of our long trip.
Therein, the bayou provided.
However, it isn’t all piss stops and Butt Thangs. No, as shown in R.B. Wood’s novel, Bayou Whispers, it can also extend a trove of darkness. Like racism, sexism, and classism. Not to mention, voodoo, armies of the undead, and hurricanes. Hurricanes, yo. Remember Katrina? She was not a hospitable host.
Just ask Jeannine, one of this novel’s key heroes. She was born in New Orleans, in one of the areas that was hit the worst by Katrina’s flooding waters. Growing up in the 9th Ward as a mixed-race child, her life was pockmarked with tumult; all overshadowed by Jeannine feeling like she was smack dab between the identities of both races. And all by herself. Then, when the hurricane hit, she was left even more remarkably alone, as her family’s one remainder. A child atop the makeshift island that had previously been the roof of her home. A little motorboat scuttles over to her, but this isn’t where the horror ends for Jeannine. It’s where a whole new brand of confinement and brutality begins.
Flash forward to the present, and we see that Jeannine is now a badass lawyer living in New York. She has been beckoned back to New Orleans to help a friend, police officer Curtis Jones. The very man who had saved her from those kidnappers after the hurricane. A lot has changed since then. Curtis is now on the opposing side of the law (at least by the state’s definition). The cadavers of those kidnapping rapist dirtbags have just turned up after a hidden sojourn. And all signs point to Curtis as their undo-ist.
Jeannine is making way to represent him in court, but she’s about to find out that a lot more is awaiting her return than Curtis Jones.
The book is riddled with demons of the past, both metaphorically and literally. Some are out in the open, and many wear a disguise. One of the story’s recurring themes is that of identity. Besides Jeannine’s feelings of social isolation, there are also spiritual roadblocks, manipulating her perception and very existence. The living might act like the dead, and vice versa. People she’s known her entire life may be harboring different roles than she ever realized or imagined.
Bayou Whispers is a great book with many layers to both its plot and its detail. It casts a whole shipload of wonderful (and wonderfully fucked) characters, including some entities taken straight from Haitian folklore, and the history of the South. Like the ghost ship, Sultana, having risen from the afterlife wearing her scars of America’s worst water-faring disaster, along with her more than 2,500 casualties acting as guardians of the agenda for a malevolent Haitian god.
I loved this book, and recommend it. There is a good flow of different timelines that I found easy to keep track of. And such a great and loaded cast of characters, all very enticing to follow on their journey.
I also had to put on Tha Butt Thang whenever I was done reading to help calm my nerves. I suggested to Crystal Lake Publishing that they sell them together as a package. Still waiting to hear back.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.