Published: 25th July 2019
Trigger warnings: Strong violence, sexual references
In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses–and into the owners’ computers as well–learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too.
Who is he, and what might he have uncovered? After two anonymous letters are received, whispers start to circulate, and suspicion mounts. And when a woman down the street is found murdered, the tension reaches the breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their own secrets?
In this neighbourhood, it’s not just the husbands and wives who play games. Here, everyone in the family has something to hide.
This is a book that begins with a scene of sheer ferocity, giving its way to a mystery that effortlessly drew me in and presented a group of characters that provoked immediate suspicion. This is the kind of thing that I have always come to expect from Shari Lapena, only this time there was a shortage of revelations within the plot that prevented it from being a truly exceptional read.
The prologue could hardly have been more dramatic, as a local woman called Amanda Pierce is violently killed by a first-person narrator, who only returns at the very end when they are finally unmasked. She is reported missing by her scheming husband, and after a couple of weeks her body is found.
It gradually emerges that many of the people in Amanda’s neighbourhood have a motive for killing her, and the narrative alternates between the third-person POVs of each of them. The plot is actually woven together very smartly, and it takes fine attention to detail on behalf of the reader to figure out the identity of the perpetrator.
Although the plot was clever in the sense that multiple aspects of the case fall into place to good effect, I finished the book feeling slightly underwhelmed at the lack of twists. There is one significant moment not too far from the end that raises the stakes and makes a genuine impact, but otherwise it felt prosaic, as though the story moved in a straight line.
Several of the characters were interesting, even if the police officers lacked personality and one or two others were somewhat cliched and without nuance. I was intrigued by Robert Pierce and his curious reaction to his wife’s death. Raleigh’s storyline was enjoyable to read too, but my favourite character was Olivia. She was very likeable and I connected with her instantly.
In all of Shari Lapena’s previous books to date, most of the characters have had something to hide that, once uncovered, makes you consider them in a completely new light. This time, everything seems to be out in the open and that weakens the impact of book in places. The police investigation here moves slowly because they are only fed snippets of the truth by those connected to the case.
The writing style is classic Lapena; short, concise sentences that do a very effective job of carrying the story along and giving each scene a tangible sense of atmosphere. Information is fed to the reader, but only what she wants you to know at any given time. It has a way of capturing my attention, even when the story is not at its most exciting.
Overall, this is a mystery that may swing a little bit back and forth and find thrilling moments in relatively short supply, but it retains a sense of intrigue throughout and kept me engaged despite its faults. If you like a slow-burning, procedural crime novel with a range of suspects, then I suggest this is one to pick up.
This is unquestionably a page-turner, but nothing about the story is very mesmerising. I always enjoy Shari Lapena’s writing, but this one did not blow me away.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐