Dr. Peter Gram, a child psychologist in Newbury, Connecticut, must figure out why seven-year-old Naya Hastings attempted to jump off a balcony. Naya’s case simply doesn’t make sense to Peter; she has a stable home life, a charming personality, and her medical tests show no evidence of a physical ailment. Yet, Peter and the physicians monitoring her are perplexed by the trance-like state Naya enters while she sleeps. At night, they observe her moving around the room, having full conversations, and often crying hysterically or yelling out in terror. Peter fears that she may have another night terror, which could result in serious harm.
Meanwhile, Leia Bines, a top FBI agent who specializes in crimes dealing with children, attempts to find the person who killed ten-year-old Janet Troy. Haunted by the face of the boy she was too late to save, she works tirelessly to put the pieces of the case together. With very few leads, Leia goes to Elephant Rock, the location where the killer spread out Janet’s body parts as a sacrifice to appease a god. When she arrives she finds Peter; mistaking him for the killer, she puts him in handcuffs.
The story lines of Peter and Leia converge during this misunderstanding at Elephant Rock. Peter grew up near Elephant Rock and Willow Lake, and he would often find comfort there when his parents were fighting. Without thinking that he would be entering a crime scene, Peter visits Elephant Rock because it appears in one of Naya’s drawings. Naya has no knowledge of Janet’s murder, nor has she ever been to Elephant Rock; however, her drawings may reveal keys to finding the murderer. Peter and Leia are both people who use science and logic to solve cases, and both struggle to accept that Naya may be communicating with the dead through her dreams. Despite their belief in science, their overwhelming desire to help keep children safe allows them to overcome this obstacle.
A Circle of Souls explores the many ways that humans deal with childhood trauma and tragedy. It is written in a tone of hope and compassion, rather than the cold cynicism that is often used in murder mysteries. Grandhi is a child psychologist himself, and his love for his patients is delivered through the words and actions of Peter. Although their experiences are different, Peter and Leia both endured difficulties during childhood, which developed their desire to help and protect children. The passion they have for their work written through the voice of a compassionate author is what makes this novel much more than another murder mystery.
For many readers, and even for the characters in the story, believing that Naya is communicating with Janet is difficult, but Grandhi offers a believable solution. I’m not very familiar with Indian culture, but reincarnation and the concept of the seeked one are easy to understand through the words of Mr. Iyengar, Naya’s uncle. The story comes together nicely at the end, showing readers that while the scars of childhood influence people in many different ways, healing is possible.
For more information, please visit Preetham Grandhi’s website.