The Scarlet Oak: Murder, Spies and Spirits by Jerry Aylward

Posted June 13, 2022 by elzaread in Book Review / 11 Comments

The Scarlet Oak: Murder, Spies and Spirits by Jerry AylwardThe Scarlet Oak by Jerry Aylward
on July 4th, 2022
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 324
Format: ARC
Source: Reedsy Discovery
Buy on Amazon

The bodies of two high school sweethearts are discovered beneath a venerable scarlet oak tree in a vacant horse pasture on the posh north shore estate of J. Barrington Cook, a wealthy, Oyster Bay, Long Island landowner.
With no forensic evidence to support his suspicions of a double murder, other than a hardened cop’s intuition, Finn embarks on an unsanctioned homicide investigation that soon exposes a long but skeptic thread of unexplained deaths dating back two-hundred and thirty-eight years, mixing with an enigmatic and beguiling apparition of a young woman residing in the same Revolutionary home of all his victims.
Finn’s is mysteriously transported back to colonial Oyster Bay at the height of the American Revolution to the home of one of General George Washington’s covert Culper spies. It is here he must discover the motive for all the unexplained deaths along with the mystifying reason they have remained undetected.
Finn’s life takes an unexpected turn when he meets the beautiful but cryptic Sally Townsend, forcing him to abandon a self-imposed protective shell of indifference to solve the mystery emanating from her Revolutionary home, while at the same time saving the life of his alluring confidant, and stopping a killer.

The Scarlet Oak by Jerry Aylward is one of those books I’m not quite sure where to place:

  • Historical Fiction?
  • Murder Mystery?
  • Paranormal Suspense?

Historical Fiction

I’m going to start with this one. Not because I think it’s the main genre, but because it’s the one that might draw the most attention. I am unfortunately, just not the right history teacher for this lesson. The Town of Oyster Bay, Nassau County Long Island, is of course true and the description of the hamlet was beautiful, homely and set the tone for the story perfectly. Oyster Bay’s history can be traced back to before the start of the American Revolution. Now this is where you need to start paying attention in class. America, 1780. What can you remember from your American Revolution History class? You might need to go and dust the old textbook.

Murder Mystery

Our main character in this eventful novel, Finn, is a homicide detective and the story opens at the scene of a fatal accident. From the start, Finn is not convinced that the death of the two 17 year old high school seniors, were an accident and he suspect something more sinister at bay. The ethereal chill against his skin and scant sent of a pleasing fragrance that seems to follow him ever since the accident, of course don’t diminish his curiosity in the least. When Finn starts unravelling unresolved murders that goes back since the American Revolution, he soon finds himself tangled in a web between the present and the past.

Murder Mystery would have been my preferred genre for this novel, but with a school of red herrings and one too many paranormal occurrence,  it opens the way to our last genre.

Paranormal Suspense

Right from the opening paragraph, we are aware of a lurking presence surrounding Finn. When Finn visits the parents of one of the deceased teenagers, the mother also confirms the presence of a beautiful young lady in her house. A strange old (really, really old) man’s tales of unresolved curses, wandering spirits and time travel, definitely slots this book firmly in the Paranormal Suspense genre.

The only question remaining – did all three of these genres come together in a perfect blend of history, mystery and suspense? For me, it did fall a bit short and the final conclusion felt slightly rushed. The pace of the book was good and the cross between modern day reality and the older times “ghostly activities” made well enough sense. All in all, this was a decent read and if you enjoy a good mystery novel with a few paranormal activities, flavored with a spice of history, this will be a good choice for you.

Thank you to Reedsy Discovery for providing us with a copy and for offering us the opportunity to review.



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11 responses to “The Scarlet Oak: Murder, Spies and Spirits by Jerry Aylward

  1. The Scarlet Oak seems like a good genre blender, and that cover definitely draws the eyes. If you like supernatural historical mysteries, I wonder if you’ve read books by Simone St. James? She mixes in a bit of spooky which makes the supernatual much more believable.

  2. The paranormal and possible time trael elements are intriguing, but I love a good historical mystery so even without those this sounds compelling. the spy bit reminds me too of a show I watched a few years – TURN: Washington’s Spies. It was good.

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