Mark Laurence Latowsky’s new thriller finds Jungian therapist Jo Hart reliving the trauma of a century-old past life.
When Jo hears a 1920s’ jazz song on her evening run in Fort Lauderdale, she collapses, overcome by memories she doesn’t quite recognize. A well-meaning passerby calls 911, and Jo winds up confined to a mental institution. There, she catches the attention of Dr. Albert Young, who specializes in unorthodox treatments using psychedelic drugs and sometimes suffers from violent impulses he doesn’t understand.
It becomes clear that in the 1920s, Jo was Penny Giral, the teenage daughter of an abusive Florida land baron who brought most of his family to a violent end. Others in Jo’s orbit are also reincarnations from this 1920s’ world, including her best friend; a janitor at the institution; the institution’s head; and Young himself.
With help from allies old and new, Jo escapes the hospital and must figure out how the 2020s’ and 1920s’ worlds reflect each other — and how to keep history from repeating itself.
Latowsky excels at creating parallels between the 1920s and 2020s characters. The modern-day characters’ motivations are credible based on both their current personalities and their unfinished business from a century ago. Readers will eagerly follow Jo and her comrades as they fit the pieces together.
The novel, however, grows baggy and overlong as it progresses, particularly when the present-day villain’s musings take center stage. Long abstract passages (e.g., “never was it fated in the here and now to be either or. His Scorpio sun and ascendant had come conjoined into this life double bonded . . . ”) begin to overwhelm the action. An epilogue that largely summarizes the film Blade Runner: 2049 and bears no obvious relation to the foregoing novel leaves a confusing aftertaste.
House of Giral gets off to a strong start with its fascinating premise but needs a tighter second half to maintain reader interest.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.