Before I dive into my thoughts about Fran Lewis’ debut novel Faces Behind the Stones, let me start as she does for each story: with a little background — for her with her characters, for me with me. First, I don’t do horror, which is what I thought this book was going to be about. It freaks me out and gives me the creeps. Perhaps it’s because I’ve had far too many dealings with actual, living demons and real spiritual warfare. To me, horror books are all too real.
But remember that adage you learned many, many years ago about not judging a book by its cover? I fell victim to it, silly me, which gave me reason to second guess my agreeing to review her book. The cover is a creepy, dark cemetery with tombstones in front and a woman’s face as a shadow cloud behind. Definitely not my idea of a good time. But I had told her I would review it, so with much trepidation, I opened to the first page, swallowed, and began reading. What I quickly discovered was completely and entirely not what I had expected.
Fran has compiled the stories of seven very different characters, each of whom is already dead, but they all have their own cautionary tales to tell from beyond the grave so nobody else will fall victim to similar unfortunate circumstances. And the stories of their demise are as plausible as any obituary you would read in the local paper. While there is a bit of mystery in each story, this is not a detective novel. The cases have already been solved. We know the victims, and in some cases we know the killer very early in the story; others we have to wait until the end. What we learn throughout each story is how they got there, how they found themselves in the situations that got them killed, and from their perspective how the readers can avoid finding themselves in similar circumstances.
Fran Lewis has created not only a compelling book but also a solid lesson in character development. As a reader, I enjoyed the stories. As an author, I had fun watching Fran’s mental gears turning from afar as the characters she had placed on paper grew heads and hearts as they developed believability.
Fran used her extensive experience as an educator in the New York City public school system to create characters, both male and female, who are not only believable but strikingly similar to people you already know. In each case, the victim is an ordinary individual, as relatable as the person sitting next to you in the movie theater, in church, or at the DMV. The scary part of this book is that any of these characters could be any one of you.