Publisher: Belfire Press
Length: 244 Pages
Copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review
David L. Day’s debut novel Tearstone is a tricky one to easily summarize in the context of a review. Rather than focus most of his attention on a single character, Day writes from numerous characters‘ point of view. There is Tom, who returns home to Washington Heights shortly after the suicide of his father. Elana, the town’s elderly librarian who is driven largely by her faith. Shane, a disturbed child who becomes a force of evil later in the novel. Kyle, Tom’s brother who tries to drown his guilt from a dark family secret with copious bottles of booze and flings with random women who remind him of his ex, Alissa. Cassy Fielding, a deputy in the Washington Heights police force who is consumed with finding out the truth behind her cousin Alissa’s disappearance many years ago. Dorthea, a pregnant woman who seems out-of-place at first, but later becomes a central focal point of the novel after her back story is revealed. Not only do these characters drive the narrative of the present, but Day fleshes out the novel’s back story with flashbacks from Tom and Kyle’s father Lewis, the first person to encounter the mysterious stone.
I liked that Day took a chance with the structure of his novel, abandoning a linear plot in favor of a more fluid approach. The story jumps between past and present and changes viewpoints frequently, which adds a layer of suspense to some of the novel’s central mysteries such as what happened to Alissa, why Tom fled his home years ago and the importance of Dorthea’s pregnancy. However, while this approach helped strengthen certain plot points, it hindered others. The history behind the stone and the identity of the mysterious old man who appears not long after Tom gains possession of the stone fall apart as the novel progresses. The stone is meant to be mysterious, but without much of its background explained, its presence does not feel quite as ominous as it should. Why did it appear in Washington Heights, a small town in Ohio, of all places? What is its overall purpose?
While the unanswered aspects of Tearstone hinder the novel, it is still a very entertaining story overall. I love that Day chose a small town setting and focused on the darkness contained within its residents. I am as big a fan of supernatural forces as anyone, but there is something even more unsettling about the force itself not really displaying itself as an all-powerful entity. Instead, the stone manipulates people to reveal their darkest thoughts and desires and turns them slightly crazy. The novel starts off kind of slow, but when the stone makes its appearance in town, the horror is off the charts. The residents begin committing horrific crimes, strange shadows appear in the local diner and there are a string of mysterious miscarriages. These events prove that something sinister is happening in Washington Heights and it all seems connected to the stone Tom inherited from his father.
Despite a few missteps, Tearstone is an entertaining debut and I will definitely be looking forward to reading more of Day’s work in the future (which hopefully includes more stories set in the Tearstone universe!)