Onyx, May 2004, 6.99, 368 pp.
East of Baghdad and West of Bastra exists a circle of ochre dirt guarded by three men who regard the site as the location of the Garden of Eden. Soldier of fortune Clayton Kenyon gathers a small force to steal the sacred dirt, but he dies in the attempt. A survivor sends the dirt to Kenyon's next of kin pretending it is his ashes. Many years later an elderly embittered Ariel Kenyon Leppa decides to commit suicide. However, before killing herself she uses the euchre sand that she thinks is Kenyon's ashes to paint a portrait of her daughter Amber when the child was nine years old.
When the paint dries, nine year old Amber comes to life and the forty five year old Amber confined to a wheelchair suddenly dies. A year later Denny Bryce seeks a decent nursing home to keep his father safe when he passes the Kenyan New Eden Assisted Living Center. It looks perfect as the residents seem like a family and the owner Ariel Leppa appears to be a caring person. He doesn't know that she painted residents into existence, old enemies who hurt her when they were alive. Now she uses the magic paint to turn them into whatever she wants.
THE DUST OF EDEN is a horror novel that is so scary readers will sleep with the lights on for weeks after finishing this book. No one should have the kind of power Ariel does over the lives of people she brought back from death and she is so warped and evil even her own daughter isn't safe from her. There are no heroes in Thomas Sullivan's creation only a very vicious villain and pathetic victims.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner