A Death Displaced is the first novel in the Lansin Island Series by Andrew Butcher. As a first novel, it must accomplish many goals: introduce a broad range of characters, establish the environment of the series (including setting and atmosphere), and weave an intricate plot that will take multiple novels to resolve, essentially making the story and its characters memorable enough so that readers come back for seconds. Butcher achieves all of these goals and more; upon reaching the last page, the reader hungrily flips to the information section in a desperate attempt to find out when the next book will be released.
The reader is first introduced to Nick Crystan as he is daydreaming during a shift at Creaky Crystals – or at least he thinks it’s a daydream. As he is standing behind the counter looking out the window, he has a strange vision of a woman being hit by a car and falling to her death right outside the shop. He writes it off as a bizarre by-product of his meditation attempts and proceeds to deal with an irate customer who fancies herself a witch. The reader learns from Nick’s inner thoughts that this is a common occurrence in Amiton and on Lansin Island in general. Later on, the reader learns that centuries ago over one-hundred witches were burned at the stake and that the island has always been known for its practicing Wiccans and such.
The narrative continues with a closer look at Nick as he goes about his week after the vision. He is twenty-four and lives alone, practicing meditation and hoping to achieve enlightenment. Nick’s mother disappeared eight years ago without warning after taking a large sum of money from her account; no one knows what happened to her and so Nick has spent his life feeling inadequate and stunted. Then something happens that changes his outcome on life; a few days after his vivid daydream, he recognizes the events leading up to the crash and this time he pulls the woman to safety. Even though she runs away without so much as a thank you, Nick feels energized with a sense of purpose from his premonition.
The next chapter switches to the woman’s point of view. The reader learns that her name is Juliet Maystone and that she owns Chanton Hillview café; her parents are wealthy and have moved to Spain, giving her extravagant gifts as a substitute for their love. After the incident in Amiton, she feels somehow disconnected from her body – she even had the sensation of actually falling to her death, but then Nick grabbed her. Strange things start to happen: she sees hazy figures out of the corner of her eye, the temperature drops suddenly in her office, lights flicker, and she hears voices. Worried that something is wrong with her, she seeks the advice of Tamara who claims to be a descendant of the Lansin Island witches. Tamara tells Juliet she was meant to die that day and so her soul is in the Otherworld; she cautions her that spirits will come to her for help.
As the novel continues, the bigger picture is painted. The reader learns that a child has gone missing, a case which is similar to one from ten years ago as well as the case of Nick’s mom. Nick thinks fleetingly that it may all be connected, but how? On Halloween, the story switches back to Juliet; her strange occurrences culminate in the appearance of a spirit named Samantha Crystan, who asks Juliet to find her son Nick and tell him to visit Grendel Manor to learn the truth behind her disappearance. Finally, the connection between Nick and Juliet is cemented.
The novel is incredibly detailed; as a first book in a series, it must create characters and a storyline that readers will want to return to again and again. Butcher definitely accomplishes this. By the end, the reader feels a true connection not only to Nick and Juliet, but also everyone in their lives; the descriptions of their thoughts and relationships are meticulous. As for plot, by the end of the book, the reader has an idea how all of the pieces fit together, but the mystery is far from solved. This book is a pleasure to read, it introduces interesting concepts and characters, and leaves you wanting more!
A Death Displaced