Friday, February 2, 2024

The Legend of Rachel Petersen Review #rabtbooktours


Date Published: 06-10-2023

Publisher: Sky Publishing


Outraged when The Post Gazette overlooks him for a promotion, 43-year-old Sportswriter Christian Kane quits the Paper and moves to the country to write fiction. Inspiration flows from a grave he stumbles upon in the woods. He pens The Legend of Rachel Petersen, a fascinating story revolving around the dead twelve-year-old girl who was laid to rest beneath the weathered tombstone in 1863. His book climbs the Best Seller lists; then Hollywood adapts it into a blockbuster movie. Kane becomes rich and famous; but then! Does an enraged Rachel become more than a figment of the writer’s imagination and rise from her grave, seeking revenge on him for slandering her name?


He popped his head out of the hole and looked beyond the heaping piles of freshly dug dirt, making certain there were no intruders hiding in the bushes, waiting to rob him of his find. Satisfied there weren’t any, he reached down and grabbed the lid. Rusted solid, the tiny hinges creaked loudly as he tugged. He yanked harder and harder until they snapped.

Then... Wooosh! A gigantic gale force wind blasted up and out from the coffin, violently ripping the lid from his hand. The plank door pinned his legs against the earthen side of the grave. Using his arms, he shielded his face as the tornado strength winds blew straight up past him. His hair was blown straight on end. The tree limbs above him thrashed and whipped wildly as the colossal, continuous gust of wind ripped through the leaves. Dust, dirt, and stones, tore at his arms and face as they were hurled from the hole. The rush of the air howled loudly with an eerie, awful sound, as though a thousand people were screaming at once. Thaddeus grimaced as the forceful wind would not allow him to catch his breath.

As fast as the howling wind had erupted from the coffin, it abruptly stopped. Then the lid slammed shut with a loud whack. The branches bounced and swayed to a peaceful rest as Thaddeus, trembling, cautiously began to wipe the dirt from his face and arms.

Being more cautious on his second attempt, he slowly lifted the lid while peeking over it through squinted eyes. No howling gust of wind greeted him as the mummified remains of the once very pretty and young Rachel Petersen, laid to rest in a plain floral print dress, came into view. A thin layer of dust covered her and everything else inside the tiny coffin.

But how could that be? After that violent windstorm, which just moments ago blasted forth from the coffin, no dust would have remained. That was just another curiosity that never crossed Thaddeus’s mind.

Staring back at him were two large empty eye sockets in a tiny skull, which rested on a satin pillow. Her facial skin, once having a flawless peaches and cream complexion, was now brown, deeply gouged with wrinkles, and drawn tight, exposing her baby teeth. Her nose was reduced to two narrow slits. Red hair, parted in the middle, covered her forehead before coming to rest in curls on her shoulders.

The bones and joints in her hands and arms were clearly visible. Her skin-tight hands lay folded on her chest, clutching a rosary. An artifact!

She looks like a dried-out prune with red hair,” Thaddeus thought to himself. Then his pulse pounded faster and louder in his ears when he spotted the holy prayer beads.

He stared wide-eyed at the white beaded rosary that had a tiny silver crucifix attached, then the corners of his lips curled into a sly smile as he congratulated himself on the find, “I knew there would be something of value buried with her.”

Slowly he reached down for the treasure. “One more inch and it’s mine.”

Then he quickly jerked his hand back when Seth’s warning echoed through his mind, “Do you want someone like her to haunt you for the rest of your life?

“Nonsense,” he reasoned to himself with a chuckle. “Ha! What does Seth know?”

Then his subconscious haunted him, “What about your dream? The curse in hieroglyphics?”

He answered himself out loud! “That’s nonsense too! Take the treasure and cover her back up!”

Nervously, he wiped the beads of sweat running down his brow; again, he reached for the holy rosary very slowly while staring at her ghastly, withered face. And those two empty eye sockets staring back! He was expecting her to move, or worse yet, holler, “Grave robber,” and grab at him with her boney hands. Nevertheless, he desired that rosary so badly, he was willing to take that risk.

Thaddeus delicately grasped the tiny cross. Firmly, but with a gentle touch, the young archaeologist raised it two inches until all the slack was out of the chain. Now taut, it would not come away from the corpse any further; the remaining beads of the rosary had been intertwined around those hideous looking hands.

Keeping a vigilant watch on her hollow eyes, he tugged a bit harder on the rosary. He did not see when the army of huge, dark orange centipedes scurried out from under her hands. Quickly, one after another, thousands of the ugly bugs crawled out from their hiding spot and ran up the chain. They raced across his hand and up his arm. “Oh!” Thaddeus hollered as he let go of the cross and flung his hand back.

Thousands more continued to pour out from their hiding spot, climbing over his shoes, up his pants, up his legs, under his shirt. “Oh! Oh! Oh!”

Moreover, they stunk. Like battery acid mixed with used motor oil and ammonia.

A part of his dream flashed through his mind, “Within these walls lie the remains of Rachel Petersen. Cursed will be all those who dare enter.”

In one bound, he jumped the four feet out of the grave. The hideous bugs poured out of the hole and chased him down. Chills ran the entire length of his spine as he danced about, flailing his arms, trying to shake the repulsive insects off as more and more covered him.

He ripped his shirt off and used it to swat the creepy crawlers off his back, chest, shoulders, and stomach. They were in his hair; he shook his head. One was halfway in his ear when he pulled it out. He kicked his feet into the air while grabbing and shaking his pant legs; he stomped on the vile and relentless hunnerd leggers that did fall to the ground. The ones he missed, turned and came after him again.

For ten awfully long minutes, they kept up their never-ending assault.

While jumping up and down, he tripped over the shovel’s handle and fell face first over the freshly dug dirt pile back into the grave, landing three inches from Rachel’s mummified face; he swore he saw Rachel smile at him! ...

Free use image from Open Clipart Vectors

Ornery Owl's Rating

Four out of Five Stars

Rachel, the story's antagonist, is a very busy ghost. After former sportswriter Christian Kane and his wife happen upon the faded headstone of a girl who was born in 1850 and died in 1863, Christian is inspired to tell a story about the child.

Christian, who enjoys writing horror, dreams up a terrifying tale about a girl who was so evil that she murdered her entire family before hanging herself. Her neighbors were so disturbed by her actions that after she was buried, one of them planted briar bushes around her grave. The site remained undisturbed until 1950, when two brothers who lived with their parents in the house where Rachel supposedly murdered her family, stumbled upon the grave while hunting. 

Christian's story has many twists and turns. Did Rachel kill her family, or was she, along with the other members of her family, the victim of another killer? What is the nature of Rachel's communication with Christian? Did Christian actually write the story or did he imagine it?

I always enjoy stories with an unreliable narrator, and Christian fills the bill. In my opinion, he is not a particularly likable protagonist. He is a bit self-absorbed and has a tendency to drag his patient wife Shelby along for the ride with his hare-brained ideas. Although Shelby is a bit vain and judgmental, when Christian quits his job and invests their savings in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, she chooses to remain with him. Her loyalty is commendable.

The retirement party at the beginning of the story provides a different kind of horror. I think I'd rather sit on the railroad tracks drinking Night Train than attend such an event where everyone looks down their nose at everyone else. I found Debbie the least odious of that lot although she has her own judgmental thoughts about Shelby. Generally, Debbie appears content to eat stuffed mushrooms and drink Long Island Iced Tea. 

The book is an overall enjoyable read if a bit harrowing at times. Potentially triggering scenes include the assault and murder of a minor and the slaughter and butchering of a buck. It is important for readers who dislike cliffhangers to be aware of the story's ambiguous ending.

I recommend The Legend of Rachel Petersen for mature readers who enjoy gritty stories with an irreverent tone in which the protagonist is a compelling if unreliable narrator. Please do not expect everything to be wrapped up neatly and tightly, and do not expect it to be a smooth ride. This book is full of surprises.

(J.T. Baroni, pictured with the tombstone that inspired the story)

Living in Western Pennsylvania all my life, I’ve been an avid Whitetail hunter since old enough to tote a rifle, which is also about as long as I’ve had a fondness for word games and literature.

While hunting one year, I actually did stumble upon a weathered tombstone in the middle of the woods.

While waiting patiently for that big buck to cross my path, I had plenty of time to ponder the dead girl's fate, which I was then driven to write.

Eerily enough, this is the premise of The Legend of Rachel Petersen, my first novel published in 2012, which I recently revised.

A newly retired transformer repairman, I refer to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a small town outside of Pittsburgh, as home.

My wife Becky and I share our abode with two retrievers - Piper, and Remmy.


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