A Chinese box of a thriller, structured by a series of ever more distant flashbacks, that digs back, back, back into the past to uncover the reason for the deaths of an indelible ménage à trois.
Wasting no time in preliminaries, the opening scene shows Olympic downhill racer–turned-broadcaster Julian Moss reading a note that begins “I know what you did” and promptly launching himself from the top of a mountain in Jawbone Ridge, Colorado. A flashback to the preceding day shows Julian arriving at the Blackbird Hotel, now owned by the hotelier family of his ex-lover Kate Vaughn, and brutally dismissing his current lover, whose name (Emma?) he’s not even sure of. The Blackbird had been jointly owned by Kate’s best friend, Celia Dark; her stepbrother, handsome, dyslexic Rory McFarland; and Eric Dillon, Rory’s troubled best bud and Celia’s boyfriend, all of whom were shot to death one fatal day five years ago. Actually, as further flashbacks gradually disclose, the hotel’s three co-owners were a lot closer than that, since Celia was the lover of both Eric and Rory, often both men at once. Nor does this news exhaust the revelations the tale has still in store, from Julian’s deepest feelings about Tony, the older brother who taught him to shoot, to the real reason Celia’s stepmother suddenly cut off her hair one day many years earlier. Just when you think you and the tiny cast have been dragged through every dark scenario imaginable, the story returns to the present day with a final pair of wrenching twists.
Dean follows her startling debut (Alice Close Your Eyes, 2013) with an even more assured tour de force that peels back layer after dreadful layer from her characters in a way that really does produce pity and terror.