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Let Me Die in His Footsteps
Cover of Let Me Die in His Footsteps
Let Me Die in His Footsteps
A Novel
by Lori Roy


In the spellbinding and suspenseful Let Me Die in His Footsteps, an Edgar Award nominee for Best Novel, author Lori Roy wrests from a Southern town the secrets of two families touched by an evil that has passed between generations.

On a dark Kentucky night in 1952, exactly halfway between her fifteenth and sixteenth birthdays, Annie Holleran crosses into forbidden territory. Everyone knows Hollerans don't go near Baines, not since Joseph Carl was buried two decades before, but Annie runs through her family's lavender fields toward the well on the Baines' place, hoping to see her future in the water. Instead, she finds a body, and Annie's future becomes inextricably tied with her family's dark past.
In 1936, the year Annie's aunt, Juna Crowley, came of age, there were seven Baine boys. Before Juna, Joseph Carl had been the best of all the Baine brothers. But then he looked into Juna's black eyes and they made him do things that cost innocent people their lives. With the pall of a young child's death and the dark appetites of men working the sleepy town into a frenzy, Sheriff Irlene Fulkerson saw justice served—or did she?
As the investigation continues and she comes of age as Aunt Juna did in her own time, Annie's dread mounts. Juna will come home now, to finish what she started. If Annie is to save herself, her family, and this small Kentucky town, she must prepare for Juna's return, and the revelation of what really happened all those years ago.


In the spellbinding and suspenseful Let Me Die in His Footsteps, an Edgar Award nominee for Best Novel, author Lori Roy wrests from a Southern town the secrets of two families touched by an evil that has passed between generations.

On a dark Kentucky night in 1952, exactly halfway between her fifteenth and sixteenth birthdays, Annie Holleran crosses into forbidden territory. Everyone knows Hollerans don't go near Baines, not since Joseph Carl was buried two decades before, but Annie runs through her family's lavender fields toward the well on the Baines' place, hoping to see her future in the water. Instead, she finds a body, and Annie's future becomes inextricably tied with her family's dark past.
In 1936, the year Annie's aunt, Juna Crowley, came of age, there were seven Baine boys. Before Juna, Joseph Carl had been the best of all the Baine brothers. But then he looked into Juna's black eyes and they made him do things that cost innocent people their lives. With the pall of a young child's death and the dark appetites of men working the sleepy town into a frenzy, Sheriff Irlene Fulkerson saw justice served—or did she?
As the investigation continues and she comes of age as Aunt Juna did in her own time, Annie's dread mounts. Juna will come home now, to finish what she started. If Annie is to save herself, her family, and this small Kentucky town, she must prepare for Juna's return, and the revelation of what really happened all those years ago.
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  • From the book

    1

    1952—ANNIE

    ANNIE HOLLERAN HEARS him before she sees him. Even over the drone of the cicadas, she knows it's Ryce Fulkerson, and he's pedaling this way. That's his bike, all right, creaking and whining. He'll have turned off the main road and will be standing straight up as he uses all his weight, bobbing side to side, to pump those pedals and force that bike up and over the hill. In a few moments, he'll reach the top where the ground levels out, and that front tire of his will be wobbling and groaning and drawing a crooked line in the soft, dry dirt.

    They're singing in the trees again today, those cicadas. A week ago, they clawed their way out of the ground, seventeen years' worth of them, and now their skins hang from the oaks, hardened husks with tiny claws and tiny, round heads. One critter called out to another and then another until their pulsing songs made Annie press both hands over her ears, tuck her head between her knees, and cry out for them to stop. Stop it now. All these many days, there's been something in the air, a spark, a crackle, something that's felt a terrible lot like trouble coming, and it's been much like the weight of those cicadas, thousands upon thousands of them crying out to one another.

    Annie has known all morning Ryce would be coming. It's why she's been sitting on this step and waiting on him for near an hour. She oftentimes knows a thing is coming before it has come. It's part of the curse—or blessing, if Grandma is to be believed—of having the know-how.

    They both have the know-how, Annie and Aunt Juna. That's what Grandma calls it. The know-how. It floats just above the lavender bushes, trickles from the moss hanging in the oaks, drifts like a fallen leaf down the Lone Fork River, just waiting for someone like Annie or Aunt Juna to scoop it or snatch it or pluck it from the air. The two of them share the know-how because Aunt Juna is Annie's real mother. Grandma has it too. She says there's no evil in the know-how, though some are frightened of a thing they know little about. It's my gift to you, Grandma is all the time saying, but that's not true. The know-how passes from mother to daughter. Everyone knows that. Annie also has Aunt Juna's black eyes. Not dark brown or almost black. But black, through and through. Folks believe that's where the evil lives. In the eyes. It's Annie's fear, has been all her life, that evil passes from mother to daughter too.

    Most days the know-how is like a whisper or a sigh, but with the approach of Annie's half birthday—her day of ascension, they call it—the know-how has swelled, and this something in the air has made Annie startle for no reason, hold her breath when she thought she'd heard something she ought not have heard. All her years, fifteen and a half of them when she celebrates her day of ascension tomorrow, Annie Holleran has lived with the fear of turning out like her Aunt Juna. All her years, Annie has lived with the fear that Aunt Juna will one day come home.

    Pushing herself off the bottom step and not bothering to smooth her skirt or straighten her blouse, Annie walks into the middle of the drive, kicking up dust with her bare feet. With every step, her middle caves and her shoulders slouch, Annie's favored posture since she sprouted last summer. That's what Mama called it . . . sprouting. And ever since, Mama has been telling Annie to stand straight and show some pride, as if being taller than most every other girl should be a prideful thing.

    In addition to nagging about improper posture, Mama will be after Annie with soap and a rag by lunchtime, and she'll remind Annie no more going barefoot...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 13, 2015
    The scents of Lavender and regret are heavy in this suspenseful coming-of-age novel centering on two generations of rural Kentucky women—and those unlucky enough to become enmeshed in their lives—from Edgar-winner Roy (Bent Road). The devastating tale alternates between chapters set in 1936 narrated by Sarah Crowley and chapters set in 1952 from the third-person
    perspective of teenage Annie Holleran, whom Sarah has been raising as her daughter. But the key figure, never heard from directly, is Juna, Sarah’s younger sister (and Annie’s birth mother), a seductive,
    sinister force responsible for sending one man to the gallows and a boy to his death. Gifted (or cursed) with Juna’s startling black eyes and a sixth sense country folk call “the know-how,” the spirited Annie has been making nearly everyone uneasy for as long as she can remember. Annie’s discovery of a dead body on a neighboring farm leads to the unearthing of long-buried, still-dangerous secrets. This powerful story inspired by the last legal public hanging in the U.S. should transfix readers right
    up to its stunning final twist. Agent: Jenny Bent, Bent Agency.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2015
    Roy (Bent Road, 2011, etc.) draws a Faulkner-ian tale of sex and violence from the Kentucky hills. In scenes alternating between 1936 and 1952-and with points of view shifting and mirroring-two women live with a gift for foretelling, what they call the know-how. "It floats just above the lavender bushes, trickles from the moss hanging from the oaks...waiting for someone like Annie or Aunt Juna to scoop it or snatch it or pluck it from the air." Juna disappeared after her testimony led to Joseph Carl Baines being hanged in '36 for murder. As the book opens, Annie Holleran is trapped in a country superstition about her future husband's face being reflected by well water on her 15th half-birthday-"her day of ascension." In fact, there's as much about who loves whom here as about the Holleran-Baines blood feud ignited by Joseph Carl's hanging. Willful ignorance, and the nature of the supposed crime, meant a rush to judgment, but only deep into the haunted tale come hints that Juna's know-how disguises a darker trait. Roy's characters live whole on the page, especially Annie, all gawky girl stumbling her way to womanhood through prejudice and inhibition; the widowed female sheriff, her husband's successor, who announces the prisoner's death: "On her head sits a simple blue hat she might wear to a wedding or a funeral"; Juna's sister, Sarah, who aches for Ellis Baine; and the girls' widowed daddy, who "has a way of balling himself up when he's drinking regular, almost like he's wanting to altogether disappear." As three generations struggle with deception and death, there's much ado about lavender-in kitchens, in sachets, in bread and tea, symbolizing devotion-in this tale driven by something stranger. A sure winner with fans of backwoods country noir.

  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2015
    In 1952 Kentucky, Annie Holleran takes a big risk one night when she slips from her home to peer into the Baine family well. The Hollerans and the Baines have hated one another since the 1930s, and there's a body by the well. Roy's "Bent Road" won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Lori Roy
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