The Homecoming by Carsten Stroud (Knopf, July 2013)-Warning: If you haven’t read NICEVILLE, there may be inevitable spoilers in this review!
The Homecoming starts right up where Niceville left off, with the crash of a Chinese Lear full of possible Chinese spies. Also, Byron Dietz has been arrested in connection with a bank robbery that involved the execution style slayings of four cops that were pursuing the suspects, and Nick Kavenaugh, brother in law to Dietz, is shocked. Byron is a thug, and a wife beater, but he certainly doesn’t think he’s stupid enough to get caught with a bunch of cash from the robbery in the wheel well of his Hummer. Jump to six months later,and Nick’s got a lot more on his plate. In fact, Byron’s wife, Beth, with children Axel and Hannah, came to live with him and his wife, Kate, after Beth took one too many punches, and Rainey Teague, the boy that went missing in Niceville, has settled in with Nick and Kate as well. Well, settled in may not be the right word. Nick has a bad feeling about Rainey, nothing he can quite put his finger on, and it’s kept him at arm’s length from the boy. Either way, things are a far cry from the quiet that he enjoyed when it was just him and Kate. Nick will soon have plenty of other things to worry about when things start coming to a head concerning that bank robbery and Byron Dietz.
Meanwhile, Kate is finding out some things of her own. Rainey and Axel have been up to no good, skipping school and breaking into Rainey’s mother’s home, supposedly in search of answers concerning her disappearance and his father’s suicide. Rainey’s origins are still a mystery, but soon those secrets will start coming out, and something has gotten in to Rainey, an evil that is conniving and insidiously intelligent. With the help of Lemon Featherlight, a local ladies man, Kate’s brother Reed, and even, reluctantly, Nick, Kate is determined to find out what’s wrong with Rainey, and protect him at all costs, even if it drives a wedge between her and Nick.
I managed to summarize a good portion of The Homecoming, but there’s quite a bit left that I haven’t even touched. The author delves back into the rich history of Niceville and its founding families, one of which Kate is a member of, and another of which Rainey Teague is quite diabolically tangled in. There are a few supernatural entities at work in Niceville, some of which are benevolent, and one of which is decidedly not. We also still have the storyline involving the three men involved in the bank robbery, one of which is active law enforcement, and shockingly enough, I grew to like these guys over the course of the two books. They’re not good men, but they’re complicated men, and you can never forget the Niceville effect. It makes people do and see strange things, and boy do things get strange. Kate and Nick are a loving couple, but they’re both extremely independent people, making for a very intriguing dynamic.
Carsten Stroud has a wonderfully twisted imagination and he seamlessly weaves southern noir in with horror and supernatural elements to create a genre defying series that, personally, I love. Yep, this series has a ton going on, lots of plot threads and enough characters to make your head spin but the author manages to tie in everything, and everyone, effortlessly. Not to mention the dialogue is off the charts good. I wouldn’t recommend reading The Homecoming without reading Niceville first. There’s just too much going on and a lot of events in The Homecoming might not make sense to new readers. The series is unique, complex, odd, creepy, sometimes sad and always fascinating, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be more stories set in Niceville in the future.