Review by Sandra Ruttan

Pale Immortal follows a number of key characters, whose lives intertwine in a series of events that will change the course of their lives forever. The story begins with a boy being abandoned by his mother at the house of the man she says is his father, a man the boy has never set eyes on in his sixteen years.

The man, local author and town freak Evan Stroud, is convinced the boy can’t be his son. He has his own challenges, as a man with porphyria (otherwise known as the Vampire disease), unable to go out in sunlight, feared by the locals.
We also have the county coroner and medical examiner, Rachel Burton, dealing with a young girl murdered, her body drained of blood.

Add in the local lore about the Pale Immortal, a “vampire” who committed heinous crimes decades before, and you have the foundation of a story that is almost more about a town haunted by itself and its past, and how those lingering ghost stories and legends impact the living in the present.

“ Old Tuonela was a scary campfire story, a flashlight under the chin.” Lines like that resonate with the child in each of us that sat by the firelight in the dark night, not wanting to admit we were scared senseless by silly stories of murderers and monsters. Frasier taps into those real fears, allowing us to empathize with the struggle the characters face as they sort out the real horrors from the imagined.
Stepping into the mind of the boy, we find him thinking, This is what it was about. These moments that crept up on you out of nowhere and whispered mysterious unformed promises that made you want to live for something you didn’t even know existed. Passages like that grabbed me. I could relate to these characters and their challenges, fears and frustrations.

Frasier delivers twist upon twist. Things I expected to have happen didn’t, turned out differently, or she added another dimension to the situation that made it hit home effectively. This is the kind of book that builds to a slow boil, and then bubbles incessantly and will keep you turning pages to the end, desperate to find out what happens. It was a different kind of read for me, with the vampire/paranormal elements to the storyline, but Frasier is an expert at haunting the reader.

I don’t want to give any spoilers or delve too deeply into the plot, but my usual routine is to read a book, write up a ‘quick and dirty’ review and then let it sit for a week. I go back, look over my initial thoughts, and then write the proper review. It gives a book a chance to settle. It tells me if it’s utterly forgettable, or the kind that lingers with you long after you’ve read the last page.

Pale Immortal is the kind that lingers. The characters are rich, complex. The story is masterfully spun. The deeper issues at play in the book resonate. It seems a bit early for predications, but I’m betting this book will be on my top ten reads of 2006.

The only thing that would have made the experience better of reading this book better would have been reading it on a dark fall night with the wind whipping the barren trees outside, but despite the sunshine and heat I could still feel the hair on the back of my neck standing on end, followed by shudders down my spine.


Sandra Ruttan’s debut suspense novel, Suspicious Circumstances, will be released in January 2007.

Praise for Suspicious Circumstances:

“A gripping adventure, a large cast of marvelous characters, and twists that follow turns. Read it. You’ll love it too.”
Robert Fate, author of Baby Shark

“Sandra Ruttan has graced the world of psychological thrillers with this fast-paced, absorbing tale, fraught with corruption, murder, mistrust, a number of unconscionable villains and two exceptionally likable protagonists, all craftily entangled in a delightfully twisted plot. Sit back and be prepared to get lost in this riveting story, because you won’t want to put it down until you’ve turned the very last page.”
JB Thompson, author of The Mozart Murders

"Suspicious Circumstances is a plot with endless twists and turns, lots of unexpected heroes and villains, and enough unanswered questions to keep you reading to the very end!"
Julia Buckley, author of The Dark Backward

“Suspicious Circumstances twists and turns and twists again, leaving the reader breathless and unsure which end is up. And that's just the beginning. Ruttan's deft touch intrigues and satisfies, making her a powerful new force in the mystery field.”
JT Ellison, author of All The Pretty Girls, MIRA 2007

“A well executed procedural with a spark between our protagonists, an excellent feel for political machinations on a small town scale and a plot that twists and turns like a bad tempered rattlesnake.”
Russel D. McLean, Crime Scene Scotland

Return to Fall 2006 Table of Contents

© 2006 SPINETINGLER Magazine - All rights reserved

Baby Love
If It Bleeds
Behind You!
No Help For The Dying
A Kind of Puritan
A Thankless Child
A Certain Malice