Buried Secrets by Evelyn Vaughn
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1205, $4.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-27275-8
***
Zack Lorenzo’s young wife Gabriella drowned in the bathtub, supposedly caused by a mild heart attack. After the funeral, Zack chanced to meet Cecil Taylor, a young graduate student pursuing an interest in the occult. With some type of instrument, Taylor was able to persuade Zack that her coffin was empty. After an exhumation it was found that indeed her remains were not there.

Zack resigned from the police force and eventually entered a private investigative partnership with Taylor, specializing in crimes that involved the occult. Four years later he is in the area of Almanuevo, Texas, which has become a center for New Age revelations and vortexes. In the course of working a case, he seeks an interview with Josephine James.

Years earlier, Jo had been working summers in an underground mine setting explosives. One day an earthquake trapped her and her three friends. They died, but immediately came back to life as feral humans trying to kill her. Jo escaped by eventually blowing them up and was rescued several days later. Enough of the story seeped out to draw Zack’s attention years later.

Jo never recovered emotionally from this and sought to escape into a very small town sheriff’s position. Her tiny West Texas town is just about an hour south of the new mecca of Almanuevo and Zack meets her when her deputy arrests him for speeding. Not an auspicious beginning.

Zack is investigating the mystery of a college student who fell to his death in the region. One minute his body had been in the equivalent of the morgue, and the next time he is viewed, he is up ambling in the desert; and his body has disappeared. Since this case has some distinct parallels to Jo’s situation, and oddly to his own, Zack is keen to talk with her.

Zack is macho, but not disbelieving in all things paranormal. Jo is bright, competent, but as withdrawn as one can become and still function in society. She had been refusing to mentally address the time in the cave-in, but slowly realizes that she is reawakening to life.

The author slowly builds the relationship between them as she methodically takes the reader on a tour of the occult. There is an astonishing amount of information about an incredible number of cults.

Most neophyte readers understand the differences in the wiccan and the practitioners of black magic. But in this story the author explores the Scandinavian, Egyptian, Caribbean, and Mexican. Cuban and other believers of Black Magic. The gurus, channelers and leaders appear in all forms, and the plot is further complicated when the Mafia sends one of their executives to the town because one of their own had become a “walking dead.”

The romantic tension is well sustained, but the plot line often bogs down during Jo and Zack’s innumerable interviews with different cults while they are trying to find the one responsible for creating “zombies.” The scene setting is realistic, but the head necroromancer calling on rattlesnakes to make frequent and life threatening appearances is a bit much.

More than a passing acquaintance with the paranormal is necessary to make Buried Secrets an enjoyable read. Otherwise the reader tends to bog down in the data overload the author supplies in the description and distinguishing features of various cults.

--Thea Davis


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