Between Life and Death opens with Pyle's protagonist, James Earl Williams, on an annual pilgrimage to his maternal grandparents' home in Natchez, Mississippi. James has journeyed south from New Jersey many times in the past and spent satisfying hours at work in his grandfather's garage repairing cars for local residents and restoring his treasured '67 Mustang. But this will prove a summer of upheaval for the seventeen-year-old in which he finds himself embroiled in grave-robbing, murder, kidnapping, and a shocking digression into the sinister sway of backwoods voodoo.
James' quandary begins with a mysterious clicking sound emanating from inside the walls of his grandparents' house. The nocturnal nuisance spurs bouts of insomnia, nightmares of suffocation in oily seas, and midnight investigating only to find no source for the noise. It isn't until his Aunt Martiel reveals a family history of paranormal sight that young James opens his mind and will to the treachery that lies ahead. All he holds dear, his newfound love for sweet Jolie, and his faith are questioned as James faces the unspeakable conjured by Miss Lyda Brown, a merciless bokor, a voodoo sorceress capable of capturing souls and raising the undead.
How does a teenager wage war against a being so ancient and evil as Lyda Brown and her minions, Toad and Billy? What dormant skills must James hone to emerge victorious and save his family? What long-hidden secret will he discover?
The strengths of Between Life and Death fall in the realm of clever suspense and layers of backbone-tingling horror. I base my estimate of a novel's worth on whether the story holds my interest, if I leave a night's read and find myself still speculating about what might happen. If I'm drawn to the characters. Between Life and Death accomplished all of this, and I give it four stars.
David Pyle comes from an extended career in manufacturing and technology. He lives in North Texas with his son and daughter.