Warnings: Rape, mention of past sexual abuse, attempted rape, child abuse
Rating: 4.75 stars
Bowen McAlister and his partner Cyrus Curran along with their friends Duff Gentry and Lockhart Dawson are headed out to Boulder, Colorado to research and explore the Ruby Lode, an abandoned gold mine for Bowen’s outdoor adventure company. But even before they take off, Duff gets a premonition that makes him uneasy. When Duff tells the others, they listen out of respect for their friend’s psychic abilities but continue on even as Duff’s fears grow.
They should have listened. Because Duff is right. Lurking deep in the mine shafts of Ruby Lode, something dark and dangerous awaits the four men, determined to protect its secrets at all costs, including death. It preys on each man’s insecurities, it visits them in their dreams turning them into nightmares. For each man to survive, they will have to look deep within themselves for the truth about each other and secrets long hidden must come to the surface if all are to remain sane and survive the mystery of Ruby Lode.
This novel was just a cornucopia of wonderful elements that it is hard to know where to begin. Usually I start with the characterizations and with the four men mentioned above Scotty Cade has done a great job of bringing together diverse personas with some truly heartbreaking backgrounds and meshing them together as a close knit group of friends the reader loves spending time with. Bowen McAlister and Cyrus Curran have been together for 10 years as the story opens and their easy dialog with each other along with other touches makes that relationship and each other very believable. Bo and Cy have the authenticity of a long term couple still very much in love. After reading the author’s bio, I could almost feel Cade bringing experiences from his own long term relationship into the portrait he paints here of Bo and Cy so grounded and real do they feel. Next to them are their two friends, Lockhart Dawson, who seems shallow and commitment phobic, and Duff, who is psychic, shy, and hiding many secrets behind his insecurities. Both men have background and secrets that will come out over the course of the story that will bring the reader much closer to Duff and Lockey. Cade’s characterizations are terrific, but the ones I truly loved are the ones that will surprise you. I won’t go into them here as I feel that is spoiler territory but let’s just say that other characters will hook you in from the beginning and, like the mournful refrain from a mountain folksong, will haunt the pages and the reader from then on. Bravos all around for the author on characterization and character development.
The characters are thrown into the middle of a heartbreaking and deeply dangerous mystery located in the depths of Ruby Lode, an abandoned gold mine. Cade skillfully builds the atmosphere in spine tingling detail, amping up the anxiety and dread for the characters we have come to love until it explodes in a gut wrenching finale. Parts of this story are not for the fainthearted so please take the warnings at the beginning to heart. At first, I was tempted to think it was emotional overload on the author’s part but as the story continued I could see that Cade had a justification for its inclusion, and it all made sense in the end. Again I am being obtuse to reduce any chance for a spoiler here.
While my expertise in gold mines is limited to Maryland’s (yes, we had a few), I can tell Cade did his research and the settings seem very authentic right down to the equipment and mine layouts. The supernatural elements explored here are accomplished with the same expertise and deft touches displayed throughout the novel. I loved how these elements were woven into the stories, starting with mere threads in the beginning, adding one here and there until Cade has fashioned a old time storytelling quilt, colorful with basic patterns turned into designs of complexity. Parts of this book will have you in tears so have the tissues handy as you will need them.
So why not five stars? It all comes down to one character who I absolutely disliked right to the end. I understood him and his actions but that never translated into anything even remotely approaching “like”, especially his actions at the end. I am sure others will not agree with me and for you this is a solid 5 stars. So 4.75 stars from me for just an outstanding read from Scotty Cade. You will love it as I am just quibbling over another well done character. Grab this one up.
Cover: Another favorite cover of the month for me. The artist is Reese Dante whose work I love and this is another example. Beautiful haunting painting of the insides of an abandoned mine. Perfection in tone and coloring. I love it.