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'Bloodline' review: Small town, big secrets

"Bloodline" is the new suspense novel by Jess

"Bloodline" is the new suspense novel by Jess Lourey. Credit: Jessica Lourey/TNS

BLOODLINE by Jess Lourey (Thomas & Mercer, 352 pp., $15.95)

Jess Lourey channels bits of "The Stepford Wives" and "Rosemary’s Baby" — without the supernatural elements — for a tightly coiled domestic thriller that slowly but persuasively builds the suspense.

Secrets abound around every corner as pregnant journalist Joan Harken soon discovers when her fiance Deck Schmidt convinces her to move from Minneapolis to his hometown of Lilydale, Minnesota. Joan is apprehensive at first, but is convinced after she is mugged. She’s also afraid of the growing unrest occurring in cities across the country in 1968.

Joan yearns for a family and is immediately embraced by Deck’s relatives, but the closeness comes at a price. Joan and Deck live on the same street as his parents and in the house in which he grew up that his folks still own. It's like "Everyone Loves Raymond" minus the funny.

Deck’s father, John, is the mayor and, as head of the county draft board, helped his son avoid Vietnam. It’s only when John decided he would "allow" Joan to work that she gets a job on the local newspaper. But she is constantly thwarted when she tries to cover her first major story: finding out if a stranger really is Paulie Aandeg, who disappeared 24 years earlier following his first day in kindergarten.Lourey skillfully builds the terror as the townspeople constantly watch Joan’s every move. She can’t even go to the store without someone reporting back to Deck’s parents. Then there are those mysterious meetings that Deck attends to which she is not invited.

Lourey deftly shows how the times were definitely changing during 1968, which pleases Joan but not the residents of Lilydale . Increasingly, Lilydale seems less idyllic and more intimidating.

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