In the summer of 1976, thirteen-year-old George Moody visits his scientist grandfather. There he is introduced to precocious distant cousin, Liza, who is George’s age and also staying with Grandpa. The other member of the household is Kizzy, the mystical housekeeper who charms animals, possesses healing powers and lives in the coal cellar. George finds friendship and diversion with Sammy Sweeney, the neighborhood oddball. Their numerous misadventures include dodging the local bullies, risking life and limb in Sammy’s tree house and snooping around Grandpa’s off-limits shed, which is at the center of strange occurrences.
A second summer at Grandpa’s will change George’s life permanently as he uncovers the nature of the household in which he has been passing his carefree vacations. And not until decades later will he comprehend the full, bewildering truth.
"A late night incident draws George Moody into the dilapidated shed behind the home he inherited from his grandfather, forcing him to confront long-buried family secrets and to relive two extraordinary summers of his early teens. Seasoned with magical realism, What Lies Beneath is a coming-of-age novel for anyone who has ever been a kid."
George doesn't even remember the father that perished in the Vietnam War. All he does remember is the triangle shaped flag given to his distraught mother with his last goodbye. Stewie Nye, the carpet guy, with his garish grin soon came into their lives and became his step-father. George's family was never really close, no hugging, at arms length, he grows up missing what most kids find natural.
Until he gets to spend the summer of 1976 at Grandpa Moody's Durham house. George is thirteen years old, ready to try a little independence and not all that happy to visit Grandpa. Cousin Liza from Aberdeen is the opposite of him and what he has grown with. She hugs, smiles, and though grown up beyond her years, she slowly becomes what George has been missing, companionship. Sammy from next door becomes a constant companion with whom mischief can be found. Too soon, the summer time at Grandpa's is over and George returns home but Liza keeps up with George through letters and phone calls. It becomes something that George looks forward.
The only thing that George is the most curious about is the small shed behind Grandpa's house where Grandpa seems to spend all of his spare time. What does he do in there to all hours of the night? He and Sammy managed to sneak into the shed only to discover it's not exactly what Grandpa said it was.
The next summer comes and though Stewie, with the same vicious yellow grin invites George to work at the carpet store, he chooses to return to Grandpa after talking to Liza. She can't return, but her sister Ann who is seventeen will be there and is dying to meet him. Cousin Ann turns out to be an exact copy of an older Liza and turns out to be just as sweet.
But suddenly Ann becomes sick and must return to Aberdeen where she spends a week and returns still not herself. And as the summer progresses, she becomes weaker and has to return home again. Grandpa seems more and more preoccupied with his little shed. It's not until Grandpa's refugee from a Nazi concentration camp and housekeeper, Kizzy, sends him to the shed that George begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the small building and what it houses.
What Lies Beneath by Charles Bice is an excellent mystery that put me in mind of something in between Dean Koontz and Robin Cook. Young George never really knew his grandparents and with the death of his father and the remarriage of his mother, he soon loses contact with Grandpa Moody who lost his wife soon after the death of their only son. George is kind of an outsider, a loner, it's the way he's been brought up. What he discovers at his grandpa's is the love he's been missing. Liza, and then Ann, envelop him in their shining light and become an important part of his life. When Ann becomes sick, he is at a loss. Kizzy is a mystery all on her own. She appears to be ancient, older than Grandpa, yet never seems to age, living in Grandpa's basement apartment and strange beliefs about souls. It's all odd to George who is baffled in his youth. It won't be until George reaches adulthood, after the death of his grandpa and Kizzy, that he comes to understand everything that has happened.
What Lies Beneath is an excellent YA coming of age story that brought back memories of my own youth and forgotten times. There are many twists and turns throughout the story that lead to it's eventual conclusion and George's discoveries. It was a short read and it ended being a page turner that I couldn't put down. It was an excellent little thriller that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good mystery and the thrill of discovery. For more information about this author and his books, please visit his website.
I received this book for review from the publisher, Wimabi Press, and Library Thing. All opinions expressed are my own.