The Black Isle
Grand Central, Aug 7 2012, $24.99
In 1922, Ling was born a few minutes before her brother Li. She was the stronger of the twins so starting with the midwife and her parents, Chinese society blamed her for being a female. Her family doted on the male hero while Ling was treated as a lesser sidekick. However, over the next few years Li took care of his sister. When they are seven, they sneak to the park where an old man encourages Li to break the neck of a cat, which he does to the horror of Ling. His action causes a schism between the twins and she suddenly has the ability to see ghosts.
Leaving their mom behind, the twins and their father leave Shanghai during the Japanese occupation sailing to the Black Isle though lonely Ling watched a young ghost swim and kept her brother alive though their blood connection. Lonely Ling sees ghosts everywhere in the Black Isle but ignores them except when her once gentle but abusive father and other men in her life make demands of her. Deciding to embrace her talent, she changes her name to Cassandra.
This is a powerful twentieth century paranormal historical anchored in a gruesome realism that displays the worst of humanity. The storyline reads like an autobiography as Ling-Cassandra tells her epic adventures during several troubled decades. Ling’s voice makes for a discerning at times grisly (and repulsive but apropos) thriller in which fans will want to tour The Black Isle during this tumultuous era.