My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In this fourth installment of Bledsoe’s Tufa series, Matt Johnson, a young New York actor, auditions for a musical called “Chapel of Ease.” He gets the role, and becomes friends with Ray Parrish, the play’s author. As rehearsals progress and momentum builds for the opening night, strange things begin to happen. Matt learns that the play is based on actual events in Ray’s hometown of Needsville, TN, and the incidents depicted are part of the history of the Tufa, the reclusive mountain people that are Ray’s heritage. But some in the Tufa community don’t want their secrets out in public, and go so far as to send warnings to Ray to stop the production. When Ray dies in his sleep before the play opens, the company decides to put off opening until Matt can deliver Ray’s ashes to his people in Needsville. Matt also hopes to find out the truth behind the play’s mystery: what is buried under the real Chapel of Ease?
This is a bit of a departure from previous Tufa novels where the story almost completely takes place in Needsville even if there are outsiders involved. This one starts and stays for the first part of the story in New York where we meet Matt and Ray, and the rest of the NY cast. The story shifts to Needsville when Matt brings Ray’s ashes to his family, and decides to try to find out the answer to the question of the mysterious object buried under the chapel’s floor. But, as with everything Tufa, there is more to the story than it seems, and there are some who would prefer the secrets buried in Cloud County to stay there, no matter who stands in the way. There is plenty of suspense, we see many of the familiar characters from earlier novels, and meet new ones, both good and bad. As always, music and magic are deeply woven into the story, starting with the musical play in New York and traveling to the mountains of Tennessee. There’s a bit of romance, as well.
I enjoy this series. It’s sort of Celtic fae mythology meets Smoky Mountain Tennessee folklore, and the combination works to make a series that will appeal to anyone who likes modern fairy tales, music-driven fiction, or magic in any form.
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