In Ray’s debut thriller, lives converge at a charity ball, where someone has planned a deadly act of vengeance.
Beatrice Karen “BK” Hartshaw and Trevor Mayhew have both endured troubling childhoods. BK’s mother blamed her for her father leaving; BK’s uncaring stepfather sent her and her older sister to live with their aunt, and afterward, to a private school. Trevor was beaten on a regular basis by his father, Lenny; he and his grandmother, Beverly, tried to escape the cruel man, but Lenny came looking for them. Years later, BK, working at a PR firm, has organized a charity ball and auction sponsored by her (recently) ex-boyfriend, Max, CEO of his own company. But BK is worried: Her best friend, Shelby, has been stalked by a young man who happens to be named Trevor, who, having been jailed for harassing Shelby, is currently roaming free. And BK is completely unaware of another looming danger: Lenny, methodically plotting his revenge against the son who long ago escaped his wrath. The first half of the novel is a series of shorter stories, focusing first on Lenny in high school as he manipulates a pregnant schoolmate, Gail, into marrying him, and then providing the perspectives of a young BK and Trevor. In the prologue, however, Ray wisely opens her bookat the charity ball, where BK is staring at an armed Lenny. The prologue adds suspense to the story as it slowly builds, particularly in the latter half, to this scene and even includes a bit of mystery, when BK considers what a psychic, hired for the event, has warned her of regarding both herself and Shelby. Though Trevor eventually seems to be the villain, readers will find it difficult not to sympathize with him; his abuse at the hands of Lenny is vicious, and Trevor’s mother is helpless, the narrative insinuating that Lenny keeps her docile with drugs. Shelby is equally sympathetic—she is being stalked, after all—and though BK’s life is bearable when compared with Trevor’s, she suffers from anorexia, courtesy of her mother’s degrading remarks about her weight. The romance between BK and Max, even if it starts late in the story, is convincing and captivating, because the young lady’s eating disorder may have an impact on the relationship.
Ray takes her time establishing her characters, including the bad guys, and with a rousing, indelible payoff, it’s well worth it.