When Francis Cooper, son of the wealthiest man in Edgewood, comes across Mara Underhill drawing a picture of a dead squirrel, Mara is certain that he will make her life a living nightmare. Francis seems to enjoy Mara’s morbid interests, and soon they are meeting regularly in the forest, and Francis brings her gifts: a sack of drowned kittens, a dead bird. Mara understands why Francis wants to keep their relationship a secret – Mara’s father is a pastor, after all.
Then Mara meets a woman in black at the cemetery, and learns that her parents are not her real parents. The woman in black is Mara’s grandmother, and her parents did not simply die: Mara’s father was hanged for the murder of her mother. When Francis rebuffs her at a party, Mara decides that she knows how this song will end: with blood.
This novel was inspired by a murder ballad that has gone by several names and is more recently known as “The Knoxville Girl.” Essentially, the song is about a man who murders his girlfriend when she tells him she’s pregnant. The version I used most closely for my story was one called “The Cruel Gamekeeper” and an untitled version (called by one of my sources below “The Silent Grove”).
I have been fascinated by murder ballads for a long time, and finally came up with the idea of using the constant rebirth of the song, over and over again, to fit new crimes.
- It Was A Dark and Stormy Night from book.wyrm
- Scary Music Playlist for Writers from Bryn Donovan
- The Silent Grove is a playlist I made of some of the versions of this murder ballad