In Josie and Jack, Kelly Braffet gives us a deliciously dark, suspenseful debut novel in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith.
Beautiful, brilliant, and inseparable, Josie and Jack Raeburn live a secluded, anarchic existence in their decaying western Pennsylvania home. The only adult in their lives is their rage-prone father, a physicist, whose erratic behavior finally drives them away. Without a moral compass to guide them, Jack leads Josie into a menacing world of wealth, eroticism, and betrayal. His sociopathic tendencies emerge, and soon Josie must decide which is stronger: the love and devotion she feels for her brother or her will to survive.
From its opening page to its shocking climax, this contemporary Hansel and Gretel story is compulsively readable and hugely entertaining.
Josie and Jack is carefully constructed. Braffet roils a reader to crave to find out what happens next, not because her main characters are figures to root for -- pity the bystanders in their path -- but because she has paced their often appalling adventures at a quick, sustained rhythm. The second half of the book, when our modern Hansel and Gretel run away to New York, beats faster still. Forsaking their house, and the groping, alcoholic sameness of their days there, they find the trip is rich with suspense. Besides the two biggest questions of this compelling book -- Will Josie ever escape the thrall of Jack, and if so how will she do it? -- there's the bonus anxiety of the two most important, most mysterious questions of those new to New York: Where will they live and how the hell will they pay for it?