Incarnate, Josh Stolberg (Atria)

stolberg

Stolberg, a filmmaker and screenwriter, takes a bit of a risk in this gripping novel. Dr. Kim Patterson, a psychiatric resident at an Alaska hospital, meets a patient who appears to suffer from multiple personalities; but when the patient, a young girl named Scarlett, seems to know intimate details about another woman who has been missing for a couple of weeks—and then about a little boy who’s been missing for a much longer time—Kim begins to wonder: Are Scarlett’s alternate personalities not merely alter egos but rather the actual souls of the dead? The author’s big risk is to try to straddle the line between realistic mystery and supernatural thriller, and he succeeds admirably. For most of the book, we are not sure whether Scarlett is genuinely possessed by the spirits of the dead, or whether she’s a brilliant psychopath covering up her own crimes. It really could go either way. With well-defined characters, a smart story, and some interesting shifts in point of view, this is a novel that defies genre pigeonholing and keeps readers on their toes until the final scenes.

This review originally appeared in Booklist, November 2017.

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