The sole survivor of a killer’s attack searches for the murderer she believes she can identify in Greyson’s (Jack of Hearts, 2017, etc.) psychological thriller.
Faith Winters is nearly 23 when her yearlong stay at Brookdale Mental Health Hospital mercifully ends. She’s been in and out of institutions for a decade since evading an assailant at a multiple-murder scene. Police have closed the case, surmising a murder-suicide. They theorize that Faith’s dad, Michael, killed three people—his lover; Faith’s bestie; and Faith’s older sister, Kim—before shooting himself. But Faith thinks the partially obscured man she saw attack Kim at the family cabin is the same individual she had spotted earlier and dubbed “Rat Face.” Her release from Brookdale requires she regularly see a therapist and attend AA meetings, and she soon frequents a support group for survivors. Downing multiple whiskey shots is a setback, and it’s also why others have trouble believing Faith when she says she’s seen Rat Face again. She made the same claim over a year ago, prompting a public outburst that ended with her most recent stay at Brookdale. Certain the cops won’t help her, Faith starts her own hunt for Rat Face. The threat of a killer’s presence becomes tangible when someone following Faith starts humming “Happy Birthday,” just like the murderer did.
Greyson’s dark, twisting mystery employs considerably less humor than his Detective Jack Stratton series. While Jack’s investigations often feel like adventures, Faith is perpetually tortured by internal forces (e.g., alcoholism) or unknown menaces. The novel, however, isn’t entirely bleak. Characters come with an array of fascinating subplots. Faith’s mom, Beverly, for example, is a therapist who, in order to overcome her own psychological turmoil, wrote a book about her daughter’s survival that brought Faith unwanted notoriety. Faith herself is a strong, confident protagonist. Even after someone terrifies her in the woods, she remains an amateur sleuth and makes a remarkable deduction. She’s also not above cynicism, like pointing out the irony of the group of survivors: everyone seems dreary instead of happily sharing survival stories and “high-fiving each other or something.” The narrative further strengthens Faith as a character with her recurring memories of Kim and the night in question. These images aptly showcase her determination in unmasking a murderer while struggling with her tenuous mental state. The mystery, too, is indelible. Though readers get an early indication as to Rat Face’s identity, there is plenty to unravel, including the possibility of someone else’s involvement in the murders. Nevertheless, it’s during the final act when the plot turns come fast and furious. It’s a convoluted but exhilarating ending with a few surprises and perhaps a red herring or two.
Sharp characters enmeshed in a mystery that, particularly in its final lap, is a gleefully dizzy ride.