In this psychological mystery from McGovern (Eye Contact, 2006, etc.), a former librarian is exonerated after serving 12 years in prison for a neighbor’s murder and returns to her suburban Connecticut neighborhood to find the real killer.
Betsy explains that she confessed to murdering Linda Sue, not because she remembered committing the crime but because she didn’t. When she found blood on her nightgown she assumed that she had bludgeoned Linda Sue to death during one of the sleepwalking episodes she’d been suffering ever since her troubled childhood. She was assured she would be found innocent on psychological grounds, but incompetent counsel and neighbors’ unwillingness to testify in her defense sunk her case. Once she was in prison, the unexpectedly satisfying life she made for herself, complete with friends and a beau from the men’s facility next door, showed her how hollow her marriage to husband Paul had been, and she divorced him. Now DNA evidence proves her innocence. With no home waiting, she accepts an invitation from her one loyal neighbor, Marianne, to revisit Juniper Lane. Trying to solve Linda Sue’s murder on her own, Betsy is soon swamped by a plethora of secrets and possible lies. Is Paul gay? Why did Marianne’s daughter Trish run away, and what experiments is Marianne’s husband Roland conducting in Marianne’s basement (where he and Betsy once shared a passionate kiss)? Why did Geoffrey, Paul’s childhood friend—a flirtatious, award-winning author whose affair with Linda Sue was cited by prosecutors as one cause for Betsy’s murderous jealousy—undermine her case? But as Betsy dribbles out pieces of information, it becomes clear that she is not exactly a reliable narrator. Not only is the extent of her pathologies troubling, she has always known more facts about that fatal night than she’s let on.
It’s hard to say who’s more manipulative, the narrator or her creator, but TV’s Desperate Housewives would feel right at home on creepy Juniper Lane.