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Takeaway: Returning to her childhood home reveals a sinister plot against the heroine’s life in this compelling mystery tinged with romance. The Boy in the Barn by Ciana Stone

Thriller of The Day

The Boy in the Barn

by Ciana Stone
4.3 stars – 1,668 reviews
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Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

The latest from Stone, author of numerous western romance series plus other works, is a compelling small-town thriller in which the lives of a cult leader, a mother, and a long-lost lover get tangled up with the secrets of the past. When Sophie Morgan’s mother dies, she is forced to return to her small hometown in Georgia to handle her mother’s affairs, despite her aversion to spending time on the family’s farm. Bizarre occurrences start happening all around her, and when she’s flooded with memories from her childhood, she must begin to unpack some of her generational trauma. The mystery around her family and their land is uncovered when Sophie reunites with Luke, the love of her life. But while she attempts to reconcile the loss of her mother, Sophie also finds herself face to face with an unexpected evil.The Boy in the Barn is entirely engrossing, although the content, which includes abuse and torture, may be difficult to digest. Stone’s scene-setting finesse and emotional acuity are impressive, and despite a heavy emphasis on violence, she delivers a skillful story powered by crisp dialogue and narrative momentum, using flashbacks to give her characters depth—and provide readers with welcome relief from the intensity of her plot, although at times the characters memories prove wrenching, too.

The joy of this mystery is embedded in its characters, specifically Sophie, a cautious but brave protagonist who will enrapture readers. The fight for good over evil and chaos rings throughout, and readers will cheer for Sophie and Luke’s love to win in the end. The character of Gideon, a most heinous antagonist, is compelling but lacks intricacy. Fans of mystery novels will find familiar plot points, but the narrative’s charm lies in the nuance of Stone’s people’s complex emotions, which make this combination of mystery and romance shine.

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