The most wonderful time of the year doesn’t do a bit to deter Klavan from his trademark razzle-dazzle plotting.
Nothing bad, it seems, has ever happened in the patly named town of Sweet Haven, which is both 20 miles and a whole world away from the Fort Anderson Army base—at least not until ex–Army Ranger Travis Blake kills his sweetheart, elementary school librarian Jennifer Dean, hacks her to pieces, and dumps her remains in a nearby lake. Since Blake has volunteered a full confession, there’s no mystery to solve. Yet nothing about the crime seems to make sense, and Public Defender Victoria Grossburger, convinced that her client is lying, asks her friend and former lover Cameron Winter to find evidence that will prove it. Winter, a literature professor who sees things other people don’t, has a fairy-tale backstory as a poor little rich boy ignored by his parents and still haunted by a story his nanny’s brother told him as a child about a wintry encounter with a young woman who was stabbed to death by her father more than 200 years ago. Klavan has limited interest in stitching together the different pieces of his puzzle—everything’s a psychomachia, Winter eventually decides, as if that settled it all—but the climactic surprise, following complications that get wilder and woolier, is not so much logical as inevitable. And readers who can swallow the miracle of Christmas may well decide that they can accept this frankly fictional and oddly inspirational tale as well.
Just the thing for one of those lengthening nights between Halloween and Christmas.