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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

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Cover Art: In the Time of Worms
In the Time of Worms
by Kenelm Winslow Harris
Princess Tides Publishing, April 2007, ISBN 978-0975588413, US $24.95


When Max Blessing, a psychologist, visits Marblehead, Massachusetts, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to the seacoast town. Myles Castler and his family, rent him the room and office space in their house, which was built before the American Revolution. One night, Max invites them and his friend Burrage to dinner, and afterwards Mrs. Castler shows them the house and one room where they can hear a seagull, even though the house stands some distance from the shore.

Max settles into his new surroundings and quiet life with ease, until he comes across an old map of Marblehead with a peculiar drawing of a headless woman, and Boden Welkie becomes his patient. Welkie’s angst seeps into Max’s very being, but he fails to understand how sick his patient is until a terrific nor’easter blows in and Max must risk his life to save Welkie. Later, Max falls asleep in his office, only to awaken when he hears mysterious noises coming from his closet. Some inner warning urges him to hide, and to his amazement and horror a sinister-looking man clad in old clothes emerges. He takes Max’s map and disappears back into the closet.

The next day, Max and Burrage discover a secret passageway in the closet. They descend into the darkness, not realizing that as they do so, they pass from the 20th century into the 18th. As they explore the dark tunnels, they stumble across Myles’ son, but before they can return topside, the lad disappears and pirates capture Max and Burrage. But the pirates are the least of their troubles. Outside the caves, the Royal Navy waits to destroy the pirates while life in 1704 weaves a mystical thread that threatens to ensnare the time travelers. Can Max and Burrage escape, or are they forever destined to live out their lives as pirates?

In the Time of Worms is a riveting mystery, not only of time travel and a quest for buried treasure, but also for Max Blessing. The author found Max’s strange account while renovating his house, but his search to learn more about Max turned up nothing. The story captivates the reader, weaving an almost imperceptible cocoon until it’s too late to escape. You are as compelled as Max and Burrage to follow the path they took to discover what happens. There are times, though, that you won’t want to read this at night, for the creepiness that Max feels when Welkie visits is so tangible, you find yourself experiencing it, too.

If there are any drawbacks to the story, they come in the second half when the author steps out of Max’s first-person narrative to provide the reader with information about certain characters. The only time where this became tedious is at the beginning of chapter 12. In explaining about Tobias Quill, one of the pirates, there is an information dump that explains piracy at the beginning of the 18th century. While most historians set the Golden Age of Piracy as occurring from 1690 to 1730, Harris uses a more generous interpretation on this period's length.

Despite these minor flaws, Max Blessing’s tale and the characters he encounters will leave you spellbound. You’ll find yourself wanting to turn the page, yet reluctant to discover what happens next. Like Max and Burrage, you become “Time Folk” (as the pirates call them) and their struggle for identity becomes yours. In the Time of Worms is laced with imagery that astounds you, yet at the same time they are perfect depictions. For example, Bartholomew de L’Hiver, a pirate captain who employed a more ominous technique to capture his prey than l’Ollonois, Rackham, or Blackbeard, sailed aboard a ship intended to instill fear and despair.

"He purposely allowed his ship to weather like the bones of a great fish bleaching in the sun. The sails he left to molder in dank holds until stained with mildew. He then hauled them up to be scrubbed with a special solution of hog bile, sulfur and resins which killed the rot and saturated the fibers with an ethereal, gray/green pigment, leaving them streaked like shrouds in a crypt. Where practical, he had them cleverly slit or gaffed in ways that made them appear shredded, yet left them undiminished in strength and performance. Above the water line, the hull was smeared with tars and oil to resemble rotting wood. The overall effect was exactly what he sought: a ghost ship dredged up from the nether world; a vision that would cause the stoutest sailor’s heart to sink to the bottom of his boots."
Venture aboard this tale of pirates, sea battles, and terror if you dare, but beware! Lest you find yourself In the Time of Worms.

Book Review Copyright ©2007 Cindy Vallar

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