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Book Review: Water Witch by Deborah LeBlanc

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“After soaking his father with three gallons of gasoline, Olm lit a match and tossed it …”  How's that for the very first sentence in Water Witch. Right from the very first page, you know this tale is not for the squeamish.

Is that not an opening sentence that jolts? But terror and suspense are what Water Witch is all about. As the story begins, Olm is a Pawnee Indian who is offering the body of his dead father to Tirawa in order that this god of the spirit world will instill in him all the knowledge and particularly the powers of his warrior-like ancestors. 

But Olm is mad. In his crazed mind, he stupidly decides to overwhelm Tirawa to make certain the god will grant his wish to become powerful, rich, attractive, and abundant with knowledge he so evidently lacks.

In addition to the body of his dead father, he will offer Tirawa the life of a young girl and boy by slowly burying them alive. He lures the two into his car then forcibly takes them to a remote area on an island-like plateau deep in the densely tangled swamps of a Louisiana Bayou. 

 Olm buries the two horrified children in holes up to their waists with their hands shackled behind them. Bit by bit for several days, he fills the two holes with sludge-like swamp mucous so that the terrified children can see what will eventually happen: the slimy goo imprisoning them will eventually cover their faces.

Demented Olm believes that the more the children scream and suffer the better will be his offering. He must keep his victims alive for several days to complete what he morosely thinks is a sacred tryst with Tirawa. The children must urinate and defecate in place. Olm gives them only occasional drinks of murky water. 

Dunny Pollock is summoned by her sister to Bayou Crow, a tiny remote town in Louisiana, to help locals find the two missing children. Dunny is extremely intelligent. She has psychic abilities due to a freak of nature. Dunny has always managed to hide a sixth finger on her left hand. She simply folds it inward under her other fingers or wears gloves.

Dunny is nicknamed the "Water Witch" because certain feelings in her sixth finger allow her to find hidden water sources. It also burns, or throbs, or aches, or twitches in some peculiar way, when danger or death is nearby.  

Dunny’s sister convinces her to set out into the forbidden swamps hoping her psychic finger will locate the two missing young children — a seven year old boy and a girl who is eight. The hazardous swamps are filled with alligators, crocodiles, a variety of snakes, and other vile swamp creatures that lurk in the night.

As one might imagine, horriffic incidents happen to these two sleuths. As they draw near a plateau in their aluminum outboard, they see the naked leg of a gutted dead woman caught on a Cyprus tree root. Their outboard dies as their small craft floats toward the corpse, knocking it loose. In a panic, she attempts to start their motor. She slips, hits her forehead on the motor housing, and plunges overboard — unconscious.  

Although Dunny cannot swim, she jumps into the teeming water. She must save her sister even though the bloated body of the dead woman surfaces beside her and the boat. Dunny gets a mouthful of water, some of which contains the decomposing hair of the dead woman.

Needless to say, I shall go no further in describing the horrifying events authored in Water Witch. If you are a reader who loves ghastly macabre stories where grotesque details are described in detail that will chill you to the core, read Deborah LeBlanc's latest thriller.  

In addition to Dunny and her sister, there are other characters who might have appeared in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” There is elderly Poochie who can never stop talking, but who occasionally shrills out like a bingo caller: “B-6,” or "N-37.” She worships a purgatory tree in her back yard where tied-together shoes dangle over its limbs.

There is preacher Rusty Woodward whom Dunny describes as definitely a “cuckoo,” a real “Fruit Loop.” This wooden headed idiot claims that the two missing kids are lost in the Bayou, suffering punishment from a wrathful God for sins they've committed. There is Beeno, an incompetent police officer; Sook and Vern; and Pork Chop; all characters Dunny met at a grocery/bar aptly named The Bloody Bucket. 

Although horror stories are not my usual read, there was something uncanny about this grisly tale that made me keep going and going. It was as if I didn't want to turn the pages, but I had to. I had to find out about the suffering kids. My curiosity might have come from many years of teaching children who, in spite of their oft-stated bravado, are really vulnerable at heart. 

Imagine being stuck in a hole in which a madman dumps buckets of filthy slime every so many hours. You know your nose and mouth will eventually be covered. As an adult in that situation, I would be crazed, shouting, screaming, probably dead from terror. The suffering of these two kids is unbelieveable. 

As a result, I would recommend Water Witch to those readers who are looking not only for a very clever read, but also are capable of bearing terrifying descriptions, unimaginable mental torture, and a hideously demented Olm.

What happens to him, to the two kids, to Dunny and her sister, and to the other witchy characters in Bayou Crow, I will leave to your imagination until you pick up a copy of Water Witch and read it for yourself.  

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