Review: Of Lips and Tongue by A.G. Carpenter

of lips and tongue

4 out of 5  Gothic Stars

I received a Kindle copy of the novella from the author in return for an honest review. I feel terrible I didn’t write this review sooner… but now I’ve read this twice. 🙂 Big win for me! What I feel great about is that this is gonna be a SERIES!

I grew up in Oklahoma, not in a small town, but out in the burbs. The rest of my relatives lived in small towns,  though, and I spent a lot of time with them. Then as a sophomore, I lived out in the country and went to school in Guthrie, a very small town. When someone tries to catch the mood and sense of small Southern town and does a bad job, or is a little off, it throws me right out of the story. This, however, grabbed me by the small town roots, held on to me tight, and smothered me in small town caramel – that sweet sticky residue that tastes so good, is so encompassing and kinda holds you in place. You’re like a small insect that desperately wants to get away – but there’s all this delicious goop holding you in place and it smells so good, it’s warm and comfortable and before you know it, the flow of the stuff is slowing down and it’s starting to cool and harden, so thick and heavy you can’t fly away…. but do you want to? Can you? After a while it doesn’t matter because the choice is taken from you.

That’s what I wanted to express, and I wasn’t sure how to do it. The language and the dialog is so authentic and it made me have feels. It’s weird when something reaches inside you and reminds you of something you haven’t felt or thought about for a long time. This is a short novella, only a few hours to read, but it took me back and held me in place, and gave me such waves of nostalgia. This is the story of Delaney Green, ‘one of them as don’t burn’. It might have been better if she had gone up in flames. She’s got the Touch, and like most people, she’s afraid of going completely mad and tearing herself and others apart. You see, she doesn’t only see the future, she can pluck the threads of luck and happenstance and actually make changes to it, unless she’s kept medicated, to the point of shuffling and drooling in the corridors of the mental asylum. This should be her life, until the murders start, and FBI Agent Percival Cox comes around asking questions.

I loved the magic. I thought this was one of those where magic is hidden, something that could just be Southern madness (it’s a bit of a cliche that every Southern family has a relative who is a “little off”, either locked up in a hospital or living with relatives who warn anyone that comes over about weird but harmless old Aunt Bertha.) But in this world, people with magical abilities are everyday occurrences, but there are degrees. Percival Cox has abilities that he uses to help solve crimes. But people like Delaney are dangerous, and she’s probably one of the lucky ones. Delaney might not burn, but when people with her potential are found, they are often disposed of in other ways. That’s something that felt so authentic to the setting. Southerners believe in taking care of their own, even when they need to be “dealt with” in a more permanent way.

Now someone is setting women on fire – women who are thought to have magical abilities. This leads Agent Cox to Delaney, who has been dreaming of him, and the darkness that is moving through the town. You see things from her point of view, things she couldn’t possibly know, so you wonder if it’s visions or madness. This all connects to things from far back in Delaney’s past. I really liked Percival. He had this good cop vibe, the kind of person who gets people to open up – a helpful trait for a cop to have. But he also knows a little about being medicated and institutionalized.

My only complaint in the story is the romance. For some people, it might work, but I thought it might have been better left unrequited. I don’t want to give too much away but I also didn’t want to leave out the thing that made me knock off a star.

I really loved this, from the genuine small town-ness, to the people that could only live there and nowhere else, to the really scary shiz going on. This is a wonderful mix of Southern Gothic, police procedural, mystery and horror. I’m really looking to future installments.

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