The Hour of the Oxrun Dead
C.L. Grant | Popular Library | 1977 | 192 pages
Natalie Windsor is an outsider in the small New England village of Oxrun Station. After the mysterious death of her police officer husband, she decides to stay in town and continue her job as librarian. Noticing a strange pattern in a list of books missing from the library, Natalie grasps at the first threads of a greater conspiracy that will ultimately put her own life in danger.
After confiding her suspicions to her friend Marc Clayton, a reporter from the Oxrun Station Herald, Natalie discovers that a break-in at the library has destroyed her evidence. Later that night, she is stalked and nearly attacked by an almost feline supernatural force. Marc begins to suffer from a strange mental fog that obfuscates his view of town, rendering him lost and unable to return from out-of-town trips.
After another murder with striking similarities to her husband’s case, Natalie’s brother-in-law Sam, the Assistant Chief of Police, places her under constant surveillance. However, Natalie suspects that his true motivation lies beyond simply providing for her protection. She notices that Sam is wearing a jeweled ring identical to the one her husband wore. In fact, other prominent members of the community—the leading businessman, the library director, the newspaper editor, the town minister—all seem to be wearing the identical ring.
Disappointingly, there are no dead in the Oxrun Dead. Perhaps a better articulated looming threat, even if not of the raising-the-dead variety, would have increased the narrative tension leading up to the denouement. The Masquerade Ball is somewhat less than a show-stopping finale, primarily due to Natalie not discovering the cabal and its nefarious ritual through her spunky detective work, but rather through positioning herself for the expected suspect to come forward and confess all. I’ll just wait here by the punchbowl clutching my handbag until you tell me what this is all about.
At least, unlike Marc, she didn’t need to be rescued—by Satan.