When Detective Lawrence Ribaud wakes alone in a bloody bed with his wife missing, he knows this is more than just a mysterious case of murder. His wife is the latest victim in a string of bizarre disappearances. All across New Orleans, on one night each month, people are vanishing, leaving behind nothing but a pool of blood on the bedsheets… and an abandoned heart. Ribaud doesn’t believe in voodoo, but he soon finds himself moving through the underbelly of a secret society of snakes, sacrifices and obscene rituals in search of the mysterious Black Queen … and the curse of her Voodoo Heart.
Hi and welcome to my review of Voodoo Heart! Huge thanks to Anne Cater for the invite and to Flame Tree Press for the beautiful review copy!
The Voodoo Heart blog tour invitation came at a time when I was craving Southern Gothic, and to be perfectly honest: Anne had me at “voodoo”. With a title like that, I had high hopes that this story would be rife with voodoo in all forms and shapes as that’s a culture I find utterly fascinating, and I was not disappointed.
Voodoo Heart takes us to New Orleans, to the heart of voodoo culture. The narrative never gets overly descriptive, yet I felt like I was there, which I enjoyed tremendously: New Orleans is at the top of my travel bucket list. Seeing it through the eyes of Lawrence Ribaud was even better: all of the atmosphere, none of the humidity!
Poor Ribaud isn’t quite living his best life though. Something is afoot in his city and it’s killed his own wife and a whole lot of other people. It might be a serial killer, it might be some kind of supernatural power, the truth is Ribaud doesn’t have a clue, and neither do his colleagues. What they do know is that more and more people are disappearing from their beds at night, leaving behind only a pool of blood and their hearts.
It doesn’t take Ribaud long to figure out these events keep happening on nights with a full moon, which makes him think that voodoo might be involved, even though he himself is not a believer. Might it be ritualistic murders? But then what happens to the bodies, how can they vanish without a trace, and without waking the people sleeping next to them?
Voodoo Heart is not for the squeamish, nor the prudish. Gruesome images though they might be, we only get to see the aftermath of the disappearances, no gruesome murders, but we do witness rituals and blood sacrifices. In his author interview at the start of the novel, John Everson says that he enjoyed playing with both dark erotic and evil occult themes, so I was warned before going in, and I think you should be too. You’ll be fine if you don’t mind your horror interlaced with some nudity and some rather obscene behaviour, but you might want to steer clear of Voodoo Heart if those are elements you can’t stomach.
The mystery of it all kept me intrigued until the final reveal, but it was first and foremost the dark Southern Gothic atmosphere that kept me absorbed, the exploration of voodoo, the culture, the city, the swamps, the snakes, I gobbled it all up. Bar a few scenes I really enjoyed Voodoo Heart and if you’re looking to add a voodoo tale to your #spooktober shelves – and you like yourself some dark erotic and evil occult themes – be sure to check out Voodoo Heart!