Folly By Laurie R. King
This is one of King's earlier novels. Considering that, I was all "I bet I can figure out what the deal is before the character does!"
I failed. Well, I partially failed. I continue to be humbled by the genius that is Laurie R. King.
Folly is a stand-alone novel (there is a later companion, Keeping Watch, which I will be reading soon, but to my knowledge it is not a sequel. Do not, however, read it first or Folly will be somewhat spoiled for you.) I say this because we all know how much I love her Mary Russell and Kate Martinelli books. King does not disappoint even when there aren't several books of backstory and character development to add nuance to her work.
Folly is full of nuance and rich layers. It's full of suggestion and emotion, memories and ghosts. Rae (the heroine) is a 52 year old widow recovering from a mental breakdown. The book opens as she is being deposited - at her request - on a private island, deserted save the birds who find sanctuary there. She has two main goals: rebuild her mind and rebuild the lone structure on the island, an architectural folly built by her great-uncle...both now little more than charred remains.
Kings portrayal of mental instability and of the aching loss felt by her character is heart-rending. Here before you is a broken woman, hell bent on righting herself despite what every other person in her life thinks. Of course there are other characters who round out the world of Folly - the surviving family members, sometimes more of a drain than anything - save the granddaughter whose existence is what propels Rae to heal rather than succumb. There are the deputies, couriers, and park rangers who keep her from being completely isolated on the island. There are the shadows from her professional life hovering in the background. There is the island itself - much more than merely a setting.
King sprinkles chapters with excerpts from Rae's journal and letters, letters from her granddaughter, and the journal of Rae's great-uncle - also a person who came to Folly in need of repair.
The plot is suspenseful, but not in the nature of a traditional crime novel. Were crimes committed? Yes. Are things tense and vaguely creepy? Yes. But mostly this is a novel about a woman who needs to heal. It is eloquent and rich and well worth your time. Curl up in front of a fire and get absorbed.