e synopsis you'll have read of The Diviner's Tale isn't a particularly gross offender in that regard, though I'll say it does manage to muddy at least one aspect of Conjunctions founder and editor Bradford Morrow's latest novel: the dead girl supply teacher, mother-of-two and sometime diviner Cassandra Brooks sees hung from a tree in the deep of the forest "with her [bare] feet pointed outward... like some ballet dancer frozen in the classic first position" (pp.9-10) isn't, as the sales pitch would have it, identical to the presumed runaway dragged from its inner reaches a day later.
Nor, indeed, are Cassandra's divinations limited to the whereabouts of wily water sources. Sometimes, she divines the future, too; fortune's fickle fingers and the dark hands of fate are for a devastating moment spread out before her in occasional episodes her ailing father Nep calls "forevisionings." As a child she saw how her brother Christopher would die, and found her efforts to save him tragically frustrated. To this day, in fact, Cassandra's powerlessness in those vital moments haunts her... so when she sees the dead girl - the actually not-identical-at-all (now that you mention it) dead girl - well. Perhaps you can imagine how she feels; perhaps you can grasp how the return of the spectre that's haunted her at such times in her life threatens to turn everything upside down.
The Diviner's Tale is a quiet triumph of a novel, more mystery than thriller, that has at its heart a family in dreadful turmoil. For Cassandra is in the process of losing her father to dementia: her father, one-time water wizard, who has been her everything, through the good times and the bad. She is losing him as decades before she lost her brother Christopher, and once again, there's nothing she can do about it. The Diviner's Tale is thus the tale of a woman coming to terms with the heart-wrenching transience of humanity, in miniature - and so many of the awful things Cassandra confronts over its perfectly judged course can be traced back to the well of regret she's filled to overflowing at the prospect of life without her brother, and now her father.
In place of Nep and Christopher, Cassandra's rocks are her precocious young boys. Twins to an overworked mother who just so happens to be the village witch, nevertheless they're a pair of charmers: sensitive, thoughtful, funny and startlingly wise. They positively tear off the page - Cassandra and Christopher and Nep too - such that in no time at all you come to care intensely for this family.Forget the precise nature of the monster that comes a-calling on Cassandra, never mind whether her forevisionings are of a crime or the divine, nor who left the vile hanged mannequin in the lighthouse on the island for her to find... the overriding concern of The Diviner's Tale comes to be: can this family, already unbearably tortured by the horrors of happenstance, come through the trials ahead of them in one piece?