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The Locktender's House

by Steven Sherrill

Come to the body. Janice Witherspoon's stagnant life is abruptly upended by the senseless death of her boyfriend thousands of miles away. Fueled by shock, steered by fate, uncertainty, and fear, she gathers her belongings from the North Carolina apartment they shared and takes to the road, intending to meet the soldier's body on its journey back from the Iraqi desert. But something-an inner voice, or the beguiling utterances of an older, darker soul?-drives Janice farther and farther off course. When after a mechanical and emotional breakdown she finally comes to a stop, Janice finds herself deep in rural Pennsylvania, on the grounds of an abandoned lockhouse. Despite the building's ramshackle quality and its lack of electricity, plumbing, or any apparent links to the outside world, Janice is seduced by the calm of the old house, the canal, now dry, it once governed, and the mountains rising up all around. Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, and then she finally lets down her guard, opening her doors to the inhabitants of her new province: Stephen Gainy, a reclusive art teacher and stone carver, and a spectral, alluring woman with a beautiful voice. But as Janice grows closer to both Stephen and the elusive minstrel, her calm gives way to a flood of terrifying blackouts, inexplicable accidents, and nightmares. As the indefensible edges between the real and the unreal blur and break down, Janice is pulled into the tattered web of her own incriminating genealogy, and finds herself roped by blood to a series of unspeakable tragedies that occurred generations ago, when the canals were full and thriving. Whether or not the truths Janice discovers will drown or resuscitate her depends on the choices she makes. Steven Sherrill follows up his acclaimed novelsThe Minotaur Takes a Cigarette BreakandVisits from the Drowned Girlwith an evocative, mesmerizing tale that delicately navigates the line between suspense and horror. Based loosely on actual events that took place along the canal systems of the Northeast around the turn of the twentieth century,The Locktender's Houseis an eerie, gripping narrative that reveals how the dark sins of the past are often inescapable. From the Hardcover edition.

Visits from the Drowned Girl

by Steven Sherrill

Benny Poteat is, among other things, a tower jockey, his life defined by up or down. Working hundreds of feet in the air repairing tension lines and replacing burned-out lightbulbs, he observes the world from above. Benny has seen a lot of things from this vantage point, but nothing can compare to watching a girl die. She approaches the river that snakes far below him, sets up a video camera, and walks purposefully into the rushing water, never to reappear. Startled at both what he's witnessed and his inability to prevent it, Benny hurries down the tower to the scene of her death. What he does next will forever alter the course of his life: He does nothing. He gathers up the drowned girl's belongings and doesn't tell a soul what he saw. Instead, Benny visits the address on a business card he finds in the drowned girl's bag and slowly insinuates himself into the life she once lived. But even as he immerses himself in her world, he wonders: What does it mean to watch someone die? And what can explain his strange attraction to the drowned girl? Through a labyrinth of rationalization and denial, Benny struggles to figure out who to tell and what to do, until it becomes not only impractical but truly impossible for him to ever reveal his secret, the burden of which soon becomes unbearable. Visits from the Drowned Girl is a tale about the seductive but ultimately pernicious nature of secrecy. We are all voyeurs, to one degree or another. The question is, at what point do we become responsible for the things we see?

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