In Beakey’s (Double Abduction, 2007) thriller, an investigation into a tragic accident during a blizzard reveals a string of secrets—including a murder.
When Stephen Porter’s 17-year-old daughter, Sara, calls to tell him that she’s stranded, he willingly braves a relentless blizzard to rescue her. He tracks down the address that she gives him, and he’s worried that she’s not at a girlfriend’s house, as she’d earlier claimed, but at the home of a man in his late 20s. That man is Kieran O’Shea, who’s 10 years Sara’s senior and a teacher at her school. Sara is tutoring his younger, autistic brother, Aidan, but tonight she and Kieran were spending some time alone. Sara, however, learns more about Kieran than she wanted to know, particularly after she happens upon a box of medication. She decides to go home soon after he hops in his truck to find Aidan, who ran out of the house; she calls Stephen when her own car fails to start. A subsequent mishap results in a death, and the person responsible is suddenly at the mercy of a witness. Investigating detective John Caruso believes that the incident may also tie in with the recent murder of a local teacher—and the resulting coverups only lead to more violence. The tension starts high in this novel, with a description of the sounds of a winter storm (“The blizzard winds hit the bedroom windows with brute-force, the wump sounds registering in the recesses of Stephen Porter’s mind”). Beakey parallels his thriller plot with an engaging family drama; for example, it’s revealed that Stephen’s wife, Lori, died when her car struck a guardrail—a collision that the insurance company is now claiming was suicide. Kieran, meanwhile, is haunted by his late, abusive mother, while Stephen’s son, Kenneth, is the target of a bully. Beakey maintains the suspense by continually hinting at what characters may or may not have done, and Sara and Stephen are both in dire straits by the final act. It’s all packaged within a taut narrative that constantly reminds readers of the bitter-cold weather that constrains the characters, as when Stephen, without a car, breaks “into an unsteady near-run, heedless of the hard-packed ice underneath his feet.”
A character-driven tale that maintains its sincerity even in its most nerve-wracking moments.