On the fifth anniversary of his wife’s death, birthday balloons snag Slater Watts 15th-story office window, freed when a killer knifes a mother in an alley. Watts can’t save her, and a woman dies in his arms yet again on July 2. So begins Forbidden Island, a richly textured story woven from threads of actual events. Watts, a journalist, considers the balloons a defining moment. Sick of Atlanta, crime, his job, and agonizing memories of his wife’s death, he decides to quit his job. But his editor, a treacherous paraplegic gives him the most exciting assignment he’s ever had, literally changing his life.
Watts’s mission? Go to wild, lawless Forbidden Island off the Georgia-South Carolina coast and profile a murderous voodoo priest, Rikard, who rules the island like a god. Watts, eager to escape Atlanta, embarks on a suicide mission to Forbidden Island where “death is beautiful, where human skulls stare east toward Africa.”
Can a cell phone call ruin your life? Ask Watts. Memories of how he accidentally killed his wife and sent his daughter into a coma endlessly haunt him. His last chance at atonement? Persuade the legendary voodoo priest to break his dying daughter’s coma. Just before going to the island, Watts meets Tyler Hill, a woman with dark secrets, who believes her runaway daughter lives on Forbidden Island. Hill persuades Watts to take her to the island, and her mission soon supplants his.
Hill alienates Rikard, threatening Watts’ sole chance to save his daughter. And then Watts and Hill make a horrifying discovery that threatens everything. Redemption or destruction for both, even the island, hangs in the balance. Only Rikard, the fabled voodoo priest, can save them, but will he?
Love, dark secrets, murder, betrayal, unrivaled beauty, and a do-or-die mission to save what’s left of family await readers of Forbidden Island whose phosphorescent sea, majestic dunes, green marshes, and star-filled heavens will long haunt them. Forbidden Island brings readers a sensual experience that resonates with action, adventure, and the unexpected wisdom a wild island unleashes upon those who dare to step upon its shores.
Tyler and I instinctively held hands as Rikard poled us onward into a labyrinth of creeks braiding through a cypress swamp. It would have been impossible to find our way out the watery maze for every tree seemed the same. The maze dead-ended in an immense cathedral where cypress knees glistened in the moonlight. Tyler kept her other hand upon the .38 beneath her waistband.
We drifted into the vast openness and as we entered the frogs quieted. The shoreline was black with vegetation and stands of cypress and an occasional Ogeechee tupelo whose leaves shone silver. In the distance, the shoreline brightened into a phosphorescent glow. Cameron was right. “Death can be beautiful.” A ghoulish vision commanded the eye and no one said a word. Moonlit bones gleamed and remnants of skeletons lay askew like fiddlesticks.
There was no mistaking what we were looking at and I was glad we had the light of the moon and not the unforgiving light of day. The scene was far more beautiful than I would have thought, like some surreal painting in a celebrated museum. Chalky skulls pocked by angular shadows left no doubt as to what we were seeing—The Bone Yard.
“What do you think?” asked Rikard, his arms flung over the pole across his shoulder as he rose Christ-like from the stern to survey the carnage.
“How many people have died here?” I asked, trying to gauge some emotion—any emotion—on his face.
“None. They kill ’em elsewhere and dump their bodies here. They tell the villagers they bury ’em at sea. Oh they may bury some there, but ain’t no sports fisherman gonna see ’em throw a body here. This lagoon here is hard to find, not for me, of course. It’s shallow though and the gators, once they’ve swallowed all they can handle, leave the remains right where they are. Maybe a hundred skulls rest here. Can’t be sure. The gators swallow the heads sometimes and animals chew the bones, gives ’em calcium. What’s left, the sun bleaches and currents wash the bones ashore over yonder.”
I looked over yonder. Even in the moonlight you could make out the bones of children from the bones of adults. They were strewn in a haphazard manner, just like pick-up sticks, and very reminiscent of the old photos of Nazi burial pits.
Forbidden Island evokes memories of what it is like to be trapped on a tropical island, never knowing what is just beyond the palms and dunes. The settings and dangers of just such an island make for a nerve-wracking story and remind me of the Monu Riki island setting I located in Fiji for Castaway.
–Mary Morgan-Kerlagon, Location Manager, Castaway, 20th Century Fox
Forbidden Island will transport you to inner and outer worlds of lush beauty and surreal violence. The characters’ psychic voyages are as searing as the surprise of their ultimate destinations.
—Faye Moskowitz, author of A Leak in the Heart, Whoever Finds This: I Love You, Professor of English and Creative Writing, English Department, George Washington University
Because Tom Poland is no stranger to the mystery and charm of the Lowcountry, we are involved at once in the lives of memorable Southern characters on a sea island adventure rich with historical details, the allure of the natural world, and the ferocious imperative of survival. He keeps the tension high, the purpose urgent, and a surprise ahead of the reader on every page.
—Warren Slesinger, Senior Editor, University of South Carolina Press and Oregon State University Press
I am so excited and I cannot put it down. Damn you’re good! —Leslie R.
Mystery runs all through it, and the reader goes on a journey. You’ve given readers a passport to a truly cool and fascinating place. —Dennis Q.
I know a great story when I read one. I’m a visual reader and your book has it all. Can’t wait for all the movie hype in the future. So for now, enjoy your privacy. Your future is bright and busy. —Lorie K.
I can’t put it down. I love it. —Janis C.
It is better than people say! I can’t stand to put it down. I woke up a little extra early this morning so I could read more before work and that is saying something because I treasure every minute of sleep I can get. It is addicting!!! —Becky K.
It’s really wonderful. I am amazed at the beautiful descriptions of the scenery in the Low Country. It’s truly breathtaking! Phrases like the silver-plated land, descriptions of the cotton field and the marsh, the sky and sea and vegetation are really beautiful. It’s a great story with artistic descriptions that just blow me away. —Dot W