Years after a young woman's sudden death in her best friend’s kitchen, a viral video reopens questions left unanswered.
Still struggling to emerge from the wake of the tragedy she witnessed the summer before she left for college, Maya Edwards has built a life for herself with a nice guy named Dan and has vowed to stop using Klonopin to manage anxiety and insomnia. Then “Girl Dies on Camera” appears on social media. In it, a young woman pitches over dead at a table in a diner in Maya’s hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. As Maya sees to her horror, the woman was with Frank Bellamy, an older man/weirdo she dated that terrible senior summer. Frank was present when her best friend, Aubrey West, died the same way as the woman in the video, with no cause ever determined. Maya’s always thought Frank had something to do with it. Now she's sure and takes a trip home to see what she can find out. As a thriller, Reyes’ debut is weak. The suspense is minimal, with no sense that Frank is coming for Maya or that it actually matters whether these crimes are solved. In fact, the main threat to Maya’s well-being is the difficulty of Klonopin withdrawal and the heavy drinking she is doing to get through it, endangering her relationship with Dan, and the most interesting storyline concerns Maya’s mother and father. Brenda Edwards met Jairo Ek Basurto while on a missionary trip in Guatemala; he was murdered at the age of 22 before Brenda even knew she was pregnant. He left behind an uncompleted manuscript which Maya translated around the time she met Frank but then stuffed in a drawer; it turns out to have inspiration for her now. One of the most interesting conversations in the novel is between Maya and her mother, discussing the manuscript and the idea that our souls have a “true home” elsewhere. One would rather read a book about Brenda and Maya and skip Frank and his house in the pines altogether.
The book isn’t compelling or believable as a thriller, but the author has potential in other directions.