Last Car to Annwn Station by Michael Merriam
Last Car to Annwn Station by Michael Merriam can only be adequately described by the author himself. In his acknowledgements, he called it “a dark urban fantasy, revenge and redemption paranormal romance and supernatural horror novel with mythological and fairy tale overtones and lesbian protagonists, featuring the ghost of the defunct Twin Cities street car system.” While that is indeed a mouthful, it’s entirely accurate.
Having grown up in Northern Minnesota, reading Last Car to Annwn Station was like returning home to walleye dinners and cold winter snowfalls. There is so much Minnesota in this book, grounding the reader in reality before slowly sliding the narrative into the surreal of ghostly street cars slipping through downtown unseen. We follow the main character, Mae Malveaux, from reality into a world of magic and mythology and fairies on such a smooth, subtle path that we believe, as Mae does, that this is absolutely happening.
Like the setting, the romance is equally well-written. Mae is confused by Jill’s interest since the woman has shown interest in “hot, hot boys,” but after a few not-dates it’s clear that their mutual attraction is something special. When Mae’s home is broken into and she crashes at Jill’s place, it’s unexpectedly sweet as the two watch bad movies in sweatpants and eat popcorn, and get to know one another better. They flirt, but take things slow. I loved that.
The plot starts out pretty straight-forward: Mae is a Child Protective Services Attorney who knows a child is being abused, but there is a lack of evidence and her bosses have swept everything under the rug because the child’s family is of the wealthy elite. When Mae decides to pay a visit to the household after the file has been closed despite her protests, she asks to see the girl.
While twelve-year-old Chrysandra looks and acts perfects healthy and happy, a chance glance in a nearby mirror shows Mae that the child’s reflection is a decomposing corpse. She falls down a rabbit hole as she struggles to determine how the little girl died, how her death was being covered up, and how far up the conspiracy goes.
The author describes this book as a love letter, and it is, in so many ways. It’s beautiful, with old wounds revealed and slowly healed. It’s also a mystery, with pieces falling into place along the way. Skillfully written, I highly recommend Last Car to Annwn Station. I read it straight through in one night – I couldn’t put it down!
Last Car to Annwn Station cover design credit: Kanaxa Designs.
Last Car to Annwn Station interior design credit: Terry Roy of Teryvisions.
Advance Reading Copy provided by Queen of Swords Press LLC via Netgalley at my request.