Novel unearths dark roots

LET ME DIE IN HIS FOOTSTEPS. By Lori Roy. Dutton. 336 pages. $26.95.

Set against alternating backdrops of flourishing Kentucky lavender fields and a struggling tobacco farm, Lori Roy’s “Let Me Die in His Footsteps” traces the story of Annie Holleran, how she came to be, and how her entire town might be better off if she’d never been born.

It’s 1952 on the eve of Annie’s day of ascension, the day when all 151/2-year-old girls peer into a well and hope to see the face of the man they will marry. Annie and her sister Caroline traipse onto the forbidden Baines’ property to meet Annie’s future; however, instead of finding the face of the intended, the sisters find a body, launching Annie into the midst of a possible murder with roots deep in her family history 16 years earlier.

In order to unpack the past, Roy takes readers to 1936, where she introduces a new narrator, Annie’s and Caroline’s mother, Sarah, who knows a thing or two about the family’s possible curse and why the Hollerans should stay away from the Baines.

Occasionally, the back and forth of the timelines can be dizzying, making it difficult to keep two generations, families and investigations straight. Readers should hold tight, because as the mystery deepens, so, too, does the suspense and affection.

With pithy characters and a winding plot, this is a story of sisters, lovers, mothers and daughters, and what can happen when evil slips its way between those ties.