Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.


Austin Farmer
The Phantom Circuit
After twenty-eight-year-old Lyft driver Erica Westfield learns her popstar sister is dead, the last thing she wants to deal with is a stupid hacker threatening to delete her sister’s Facebook profile. Let alone a hacker who brings up Bloody Mary. Since childhood, when Erica and her sister played the classic game of Bloody Mary one night, she has been haunted by the shadows Mary sent after her through the mirror. They’re always nearby, waiting for the right moment to pull her through to a void somewhere far beyond the cosmos. Erica has tried to ignore them, but this hacker seems to know about them too. It turns out she’s not talking to a hacker at all, but the lost spirit of a girl named Macy Abigayle, a lone wanderer who perished long ago on the Oregon Trail. Macy has been trapped within those same shadows Erica has been running from, within Bloody Mary’s realm on the other side of every mirror, including Erica’s computer screen. Bloody Mary sentenced Macy to relive the most traumatic moments of her life for eternity. Only Erica can help her escape. To do so, Erica must race to the other side of Bloody Mary’s mirror by facing the memories of her dead sister, including the ones she wishes she could forget. If she fails, all her remembrances of her sister will be lost—and she and Macy will be trapped within the mirror forever.
Family ties and paranormal battles abound in Farmer’s debut, a speculative thriller based on the legend of Bloody Mary, set against a supernatural backdrop of time travel, celestial voids, and broken family ties. When Erica Westfield learns that her international star sister, Dianne, has been found dead, she goes online to read condolence messages and is shocked to discover a hacker, Macy Abigayle, who promises that Erica can see her sister one more time–if she is willing to face Bloody Mary, an evil presence lurking on “the other side of the mirror.” Erica takes the bait, joining forces with Macy. To stop Bloody Mary from trapping her sister’s spirit forever, she will have to face and overcome her worst memories.

The idea of tackling painful memories to be freed from the past is intriguing. The main players spend the majority of the novel reliving distressing moments through “neuroflashing,” a distinctive method of time travel that pits them against Bloody Mary and her phantoms in the hopes of preserving their memories and escaping her traps. Still, with so many complex and mysterious supernatural elements, the plotting can be a challenge to keep up with, and some elements of Farmer’s ambitious tale prove hazy, such as Bloody Mary’s connection to neuroflashing, or that between Erica and Macy, described as a spirit from the 1800s trapped in the “Interstate”—a place of “nothingness between the stars.”

Readers who crave twisted storylines rich with paranormal angst will appreciate Farmer’s writing, as he adds depth through his focus on the family dynamics behind his characters’ actions: Erica’s attempt to mend her broken relationship with Dianne through otherworldly battles and sacrifice helps ground an otherwise nebulous plot. For all of this thriller’s fantastical elements, which can at times prove overwhelming, the humanity of the characters is clear and engaging. Lovers of paranormal legends will be rewarded by this complex, inventive debut.

Takeaway: Bloody Mary, time travel, and the realm between life and death power this inventive paranormal debut.

Great for fans of: Holly Black’s Book of Night, Chuck Wendig’s The Book of Accidents.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A