Rice’s supernatural thriller (A Density of Souls, 2000, etc.) returns readers to familiar stomping grounds in New Orleans and features three teenage friends brought together by personal tragedy.
Niquette “Nikki” Delongpre has lived the perfect life. She’s beautiful and surrounded by people who love her: Ben, devoted best friend; Anthem, her handsome boyfriend; and her parents, a respected surgeon and his cherished wife. But all the good things in her life begin to go sideways when Nikki breaks up with Anthem after another girl claims he was with her. Enter Nikki’s jealous would-be suitor, Marshall Ferriot, who maneuvers Nikki into going out with him. That date turns out to be a nightmare; Marshall is not only abusive, but during the evening, the couple ends up in a pool of water that infects them both with a type of parasite that causes them to undergo radical changes. Marshall, embittered that Nikki reconciled with Anthem, decides to get even, setting into motion a series of events that result in the Delongpre family car plunging into a river with all three family members inside and culminating when Marshall suffers a bizarre accident that leaves him in a wheelchair. Throw in some atmosphere, and the stage is set for Rice to work his clever, complicated plot around New Orleans and its environs. The author makes Katrina and its aftermath part of the story and creates some original characters in the process, but original characters can’t redeem this novel once it goes off course. Although filled with early promise, the book sputters about two-thirds of the way through, when Rice veers away from a complicated and compelling story and takes off in a new, unexpected and disappointing direction.
Rice’s latest has a very strong start but loses steam in the last third.