Filled with portent and small-town secrets, Klavan’s latest (after True Crime, 1995, etc.) takes the high road and gets where it’s going without too many shortcuts.
Connecticut-based Cal Bradley is a psychiatrist who works at a respectable little mental health clinic commonly known as the Manor. His wife Marie is a divinely stoic and devoted spouse and mother to their three children. But Klavan tells us most of this only later. First, he introduces Cal to a new patient: Peter Blue, a 19-year-old who was arrested after hitting his girlfriend, trying to burn down a church, and pointing a gun at the police chief who came to check out the fire. Cal is called in after Peter (“gentle, dreamy, hard-working, religious”) has tried to kill himself in his holding cell. Under Cal’s care, Peter starts to open up his passionately religious inner world. His explanations for his violent behavior, though, don’t quite add up for Cal, who feels more than a little affinity with this oddly affecting teenager. While trying to uncover Peter’s layers of denial and evasion, Cal goes walking in the woods near a spot Peter described as being his favorite place to commune with God. There, Cal sees a woman strongly resembling Marie in the clutches of a sinewy, dark-haired man. Full of insecurity from the get-go (“I’m on the short side, narrow, soft. With a bland face under thinning darkish hair”), Cal feels the foundation of his perfect life start to crack. There’s something more to Peter than he can figure out—all the other teenagers in the Manor treat Peter as if he were a benevolent Messiah—and now he’s thinking there’s more to his wife than he had thought possible . . . .
Klavan gives short shrift to some potentially fascinating characters, and Cal and Marie’s position in the town is never quite established—but these are relatively minor quibbles in a piece of professional suspense that knows well what to leave to the imagination.