Skip to main content

Compulsion (Heirs of Watson Island)

Review

Compulsion (Heirs of Watson Island)

Martina Boone’s COMPULSION, the first in her Heirs of Watson Island series, is an enchanting Southern gothic with just the right amounts of romance, mystery and the supernatural. Barrie Watson has just lost her mother, Lula, to a heart attack. However, to be honest, she truly lost her mother years ago, when a fire killed her father and stole her mother’s beauty and confidence. Since then, Lula has lived as a shut-in and Barrie’s main source of support has been Mark, her fabulous drag queen godfather who is currently battling pancreatic cancer.

Desperate to make sure Barrie is safe and secure before he passes, Mark sends Barrie away from San Francisco to Pru, her mother’s twin sister --- an aunt Barrie never even knew existed. But that’s not the first secret Barrie is to encounter on her way to Watson Island, South Carolina: Lula’s family has believed her and Barrie to be dead, killed in the same fire that took Barrie’s father. Writing this off as an effect of her mother’s neuroses, Barrie readies herself to meet Pru and the rest of Watson Island, but not before introducing readers to her very special gift. Barrie, like all Watson heirs, possesses the gift of finding things that are lost. For Barrie, just standing in proximity to something that is lost makes her head ache until she finds the missing bobby pin, ring or sock that has been plaguing her frontal lobe. When she finds what is lost, a familiar click registers in her brain and a sense of peace takes over, at least momentarily.

Barrie’s move gets off to a rocky start when Pru doesn’t show up for her at the airport. Not one to let the world come to her, Barrie hails a cab and sets off for the plantation, her mile-high purple stilettos clicking on the pavement. Her journey to the island is a treat for readers, as Boone fills the hour-long trip with beautiful descriptions of the lush scenery of the South. As the cab nears Watson Plantation, Barrie feels the familiar pounding in her skull, an ache that ceases when she touches the front gate to her new home. It is clear that she has found something she has been missing, but what? Surely not Pru, who she finds babbling on the front steps of the Watson mansion, seemingly oblivious to the amount of time that has passed since she was supposed to retrieve Barrie. In addition to her zany aunt, the Watson mansion, though architecturally stunning, is falling apart and reeks of loss.

Boone’s debut is a real page-turner, not only because of the slow-burn suspense, but the beautiful, atmospheric writing.

Too soon, the Beauforts, Seven and Eight, show up to check on Pru and her new charge. Barrie is disarmed by how handsome and magnetic Eight is, not to mention the click in her head when they shake hands, but she manages to shoo them away so Pru can collect herself before the four meet for dinner. At dinner, Eight shares that the Beauforts and Watsons haven’t been friendly since his great-aunt, Twila, ran away with Barrie’s great-uncle Luke. Barrie also learns that her father was a member of the third plantation family on Watson Island, the Colesworths, and that she has cousins who will be her classmates. Desperate to meet more family, she begs Pru and Eight to introduce her to her cousin, Cassie, but they are hesitant about the Colesworths, though they won’t tell her why. Though Eight seems a bit arrogant at times, he quickly redeems himself with his charisma and ability to know exactly what Barrie wants, be it a trip into town or a Tylenol. When they do take trips into town and Barrie is swarmed by the crowds of nosy strangers, Eight uses his charm to disperse them, rescuing Barrie from the endless questions about her mother and father.

Late one night, Barrie’s room is illuminated from some outside source. She rushes to her balcony to find the impossible: the river that runs through the island is burning! At the neck of the river she sees a dark figure, crowned in feathers and adorned in war paint, controlling the fire with his hands. Almost as quickly as it began, however, the fire is collected by the shadowy figure and the night returns to normal.

The next day, Eight takes Barrie to a local restaurant to meet her cousin, Cassie. On the way, they are interrupted by a run-in with Cassie’s father, Wyatt, a man even Eight seems to fear. Their interaction is wordless but oppressively ominous, and it becomes obvious that there is much more to the families’ relationships than anyone is telling Barrie. When we finally meet Cassie, she is drop-dead gorgeous and instantly commands the room and the reader’s attention, but she seems too sickly sweet to be completely trustworthy and, though she neither says nor does anything wrong, the reader is immediately wary. Boone’s talent shines with the Colesworth characters: they are never openly mean and yet the reader is quickly able to tell that they are villainous, but does not fault Barrie for not realizing this herself. Boone gets inside Barrie’s head and exposes all of her insecurities and uncertainties so well that even the reader is hesitant to make any swift judgments.

Through Barrie’s interactions with Cassie, she learns more about her gift --- including the fact that Cassie knows about it and wants to use it to help her family. But Barrie is not sure that the Colesworths should be helped, and worse, the sense of loss at the Watson plantation is inflicting Barrie with near-incapacitating headaches. With Eight at her side, Barrie must find what is missing at the Watson plantation and learn the true motives of the Fire Carrier.

Boone’s debut is a real page-turner, not only because of the slow-burn suspense, but the beautiful, atmospheric writing. As Barrie adapts to the South’s unique greenery and climate, the reader can practically feel and smell the lush, fragrant flora and fauna of Watson Island. The character of Barrie is headstrong, but plagued by the insecurities that come with leading such a sheltered life, making her very realistic and believable. Boone truly gets inside Barrie’s head without weighing the reader down with tangential thought processes or analyses. But the real strength of COMPULSION lies in the perfectly paced mystery that draws the reader in right from the start. I am sure I am not alone in saying that I cannot wait for the next book in Boone’s compelling series.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on November 5, 2014

Compulsion (Heirs of Watson Island)
(Heirs of Watson Island #1)
by Martina Boone

  • Publication Date: October 28, 2014
  • Genres: Supernatural, Young Adult 12+
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse
  • ISBN-10: 1481411225
  • ISBN-13: 9781481411226