Talion by Mary Maddox

About Mary Maddox

Mary MaddoxMary Maddox grew up in Utah and California. A graduate of Knox College and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she now teaches composition and literature at Eastern Illinois University.

She lives in Charleston, Illinois with her husband, film scholar Joe Heumann. Her interests include riding her horse, Tucker, and playing club and tournament Scrabble. Mary’s short stories have appeared in a number of magazines including Farmer’s Market, Yellow Silk, and The Scream Online. Her writing has been honored with awards from the Illinois Arts Council.

Talion, her debut novel, is available at Barnesandnoble.com as a trade paperback and at Amazon.com as both a paperback and a Kindle book. You can visit her at her Web site www.marymaddox.com and follow her blog at http://blog.marymaddox.com.

About Talion

TalionThe dying body has a thousand voices, and all of them speak to Conrad (Rad) Sanders. Fifteen-year-old Lisa Duncan has no idea she has attracted Rad’s interest. At a mountain resort in Utah, he watches as vivacious Lisa begins an unlikely friendship with Lu Jakes, the strange and introverted daughter of employees there. Lu enters his fantasies as well. He learns she is being abused by her stepmother and toys with the notion of freeing her from her sad life and keeping her awhile as his captive. Lu seems like an easy conquest who could be persuaded to act out his fantasy by turning against her new friend.

But someone else is watching over Lu.

Talion appears to Lu as an angelic vision. He offers her love and counsel, the courage to defend herself from bullies at school and a way to free herself from her stepmother’s violence. He seems to know beforehand what will happen. But Talion’s true nature is unclear. His guidance leads Lu into dark places, moving her inevitably closer to the world inhabited by Rad. When she and Lisa are thrust into that darkness, will Talion come to her aid? Or will he become the killer’s ally?

Read an Excerpt

Every so often something happened that scared Norlene into trying to change her ways. She clubbed Daddy with a lamp once. Blood poured over his face in sheets, so much blood she thought she’d killed him. Another time the neighbors got sick of the screaming and called the cops, who threatened to arrest her and Daddy both. Her most recent wake-up call was a hangover that kept her vomiting and running a fever for three days running. “I can’t go on like this,” she said to Daddy. “It’s gonna be the death of me.” From now on, she promised, things would be different. No more running around. No more partying. She began limiting herself to three or four beers every night, snuggling with Daddy as they watched American Idol or Survivor. Daddy was stupefied with bliss. Every time it happened, he acted like the Fairy Godmother had touched his world with her magic wand.
It never lasted more than a week or two. Norlene began chaining Marlboros. Her hand shook, scattering ashes everywhere except the ashtray choked with smoking butts. She banged pots in the sink and slammed cabinet doors. Every other day she hurled something to the floor and then screamed at Lu to sweep it up. She kept her frustration bottled up while Daddy was home, but once he was gone Lu couldn’t tiptoe through the livingroom without drawing wild monkey shrieks from her stepmother. But Norlene never beat Lu during her attempts to change. In her own pathetic way she was trying.
In the end she always snapped. She picked up some loser at a bar, cleared out the checking account and ran off for a week or ten days – long enough to raise Lu’s hopes she was gone forever – then called up, alone and broke, and begged Daddy to take her back. “Have Milo come get you,” he said. But he drove to Moab or Evanston or Grand Junction and brought her home. He stayed mad, reminding her over and over how deeply she’d hurt him, squeezing every bit of advantage from the situation. When Norlene couldn’t handle it anymore she put on one of her suicides.
The last was Memorial Day weekend, only a month ago. Norlene got drunk and gulped a bottle of sleeping pills. Staggering from the bathroom, she collapsed onto the couch and stared upward with bloodshot eyes that reminded Lu of uncooked eggs. Her platinum hair was smudged at its dark roots. “I took some pills,” she croaked. “Call your daddy.”
Lu put down her book. “Where’s the phone?”
“In there on my dresser.”
She had a feeling and took off her glasses.
Norlene was surrounded by Them. Black Claw floated against the ceiling. Outside, with nothing to confine her, Black Claw’s wrath would have carried her higher and higher until the endless blue sky swallowed her up. She gazed at Norlene with the empty smile of a Sphinx. Two shadowy nameless figures knelt at Norlene’s feet, almost erased by the incandescence of Talion, whose hand rested on her forehead as though taking her temperature. Lu almost missed Delatar. He embraced Norlene so intimately they seemed melded together. He had one ear pressed against her heaving chest, listening for a heartbeat. His eyes mimicked the raw egg of hers. His swollen eyelids closed as she passed out. Then his face shriveled to ashes beneath the tanning-bed bronze, and saliva frothed from his nostrils and slack mouth.
What’s he doing? Lu asked.
Showing you how the monster dies. Talion smiled as though nothing could be simpler.
I should save her.
In there on the dresser, Delatar said in Norlene’s voice.
Time passed, Lu wasn’t sure how much.
Is it killing? If someone is going to die anyway? Black Claw’s whisper was like paper burning, gone so quick you couldn’t be sure you’d heard anything.
Bring a pillow from her bed.
Lu went to fetch the pillow. The cell phone lay on the Norlene’s dresser, plugged into its charger. She hesitated only a moment walking past it. She set the pillow on the coffee table like an offering.
Bring a wet towel, Black Claw said.
What for? Lu wondered, but she took a hand towel from the bathroom closet and soaked it in the sink. The towel was white with pale strawberries along the edges. She wrung it enough so it wouldn’t drip as she carried it to the livingroom. She looked at Black Claw, awaiting orders.
You know what to do, Talion said. If this is truly your wish.
Braving the silver depths of his eyes, she tumbled into swirling light and sweet darkness she hoped would never end. I love you, she said. Released, she thumped to her knees by the couch. Black Claw began to whisper. Lu spread the towel over Delatar’s face and listened as his breathing became the last drops of a strawberry milkshake sucked through a straw. She positioned the pillow over the towel and pressed with both hands. Her heart was galloping, carrying her to a place she’d never been.
Not so hard, said Black Claw. Let nature take its course.
Then she heard Daddy’s car. She stuffed the pillow under Norlene’s head and began wiping her face with the towel. That was how Daddy found them. Later, in the hospital waiting room, he patted Lu awkwardly on the arm. “I know you love your momma,” he said. “Deep down.”
She’s not my momma.
Nor is he your father. Talion glistened like silk in the bleached glare of the waiting room.
Lu felt a strange hope. Who is?
He’s dead now, Talion said. Like your mother.
Stay with me forever, she begged him.
Sometimes you have to be alone, he said.
A flower of ice unfolded its ruthless petals in Lu’s chest. She knew it would be there whenever Talion wasn’t.

What Reviewers Are Saying

In spare unflinching scenes, Mary Maddox’s offers up a bold and haunting debut novel with her Talion. Without doubt, there will be readers that will be genuinely disturbed by the cruel and sinister elements of the yarn that focuses on such themes as madness, murder, obsession, sadism, and lust. Nonetheless, after putting the book to rest, I had to admit that it does reflect some of the shocking elements of human nature that, unfortunately, are fundamentally present in our society and are often attributed to the darker side of human nature.

The tale is jump-started when Conrad (Rad) Sanders, using the pseudonym Jonathan Myers, checks into the Hidden Creek Lodge in the fictional town of Deliverance, Utah. Debbie and Hank Darlington are the owners of the lodge, and their beautiful teenage niece Lisa is visiting with them. While Lisa checks out the lodge’s surroundings, she meets Lu, who lives in a trailer with her detestable step-mother Noreen and her alcoholic father, Duane. Lu is depicted as being inept and gawky, who is prone to delusional episodes, where she imagines herself communicating with eery creatures that she names Delatar, Black Claw and Talion. In addition, Lu wishes her step-mother were dead. Duane, who was down-and-out, was hired with his wife to do cleaning and odd jobs around the lodge by his old buddy Hank, who felt sorry for him.

As the story shifts to Rad, readers are exposed to the workings of a deranged and depraved character in all its complexity, who has committed horrendous acts. One caveat, if you are squeamish, I doubt if you will be able to stomach Maddox’s detailed graphic and ghoulish descriptions of unspeakable acts that are not exactly suitable for polite everyday conversation. The boundaries of the noir with its mournful, gloomy and depressive elements are pushed almost to the edge of darkness. On the other hand, I have to admit that the novel’s two hundred and eighty-eight pages are never dull or boring, as Maddox skillfully creates a shocking mix of the bleak atmospheric tones of the macabre with the supernatural, while holding onto the page-turning exhilaration of a real thriller with its superb tension and suspense. This is one haunting read that is sure to give you nightmares!

Mary Maddox teaches composition and literature at Eastern Illinois University. She has dedicated her book to her husband and who, as she states, had faith in her work even when she did not. I would tend to agree with her husband and I hope to read more from this fine author.

-Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor Bookpleasures

Mary Maddox’s tightly woven thriller is a smooth read, with clear vivid narration and fully formed characters. A sadistic serial killer follows his chosen, teenage victim to a remote lodge in Utah, where she is spending the summer with the owners, her aunt and uncle. When Lisa meets Lu Jakes, the abused and timid daughter of an employee at the lodge, the stalking killer decides that two victims could be better than one. Lu Jakes is particularly interesting to him because she is already dazed and down-trodden. He considers her easy prey. Little does he know that Lu sees things others do not – shining ethereal creatures called Delatar, Black Claw, and Talion. Are they angels, demons, or the hallucinations of a mentally ill girl? Whatever they are, they are the one thing the killer does not expect from his victim.

Despite the teenaged protagonists, this is an adult thriller, with violence on par with Thomas Harris, and not for the squeamish. It was fast paced, compelling, and yes, frightening. Particularly horrifying to me was the easy way the killer gathered information about his intended victim through online surveillance. I thought the supernatural element in the story could have been more fully developed, but overall, this is an exciting and satisfying suspense novel.

– D. Salerni – Amazon Reviewer

I could NOT put this book down! The novel’s beautiful prose lures you into the rush of true suspense thriller. If you think you’re going to stop reading and get back to your work “as soon as I finish this chapter,” Maddox’s perfect timing will have you deciding “to hell with it” and reading the next chapter, and the next, and the next…. Add to the stunning writing and truly frightening plot a lovely, complicated, heartbreaking protagonist, and you have a novel that’s well worth losing a day’s work over.

– Breton – Amazon Reviewer

About Nyx

Podcaster, baker, zine reviewer and maker.

Posted on November 15, 2010, in Suspense, Thriller. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Talion by Mary Maddox.

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