Once again, North (Thief of Souls, 1997, etc.) creates suspense fiction out of hurt people caught in untenable situations, this time netting her best score yet. Here’s Thea, still trying to recover, psychologically, 13 years after a brutal rape. She was 16, crashing a party thrown by her town’s gilded youth, when she was assaulted, whacked on the head with a rock, raped, and left for dead. Comatose for a long time, she shocks her doctors by surviving. Another shock: while still comatose, she gives birth to a son; it can only be the rapist’s. And here’s Jack. Like Thea, he’s an emotional basket case: on a night raid with the LAPD, he shot and killed a 12-year-old boy. The fact that it was deemed an accident by all the review boards means little to him, since he knows how much at fault he really was. He also knows the kind of shape he was in—the degree to which his judgment was impaired by the mess his domestic life had become. He should have quit, he keeps telling himself. He was unfit to be a cop. Fleeing separate demons, Thea and Jack react similarly. They go into hiding in out-of-the-way Eureka, California, sequestering themselves from forces real and imagined. Fragile psyches, each decides, can best be protected by deep isolation. But David, Thea’s son, is the x-factor: soon he’s attached to Jack, and Jack (despite himself) is attached to David. Suddenly, though, the boy runs away. His mother has concealed the truth of his birth, and David—perceptive, increasingly suspicious—is determined to penetrate it. North’s plotting slips near book’s end, resulting in a somewhat overheated denouement. Until then, however, we get three very likable people to worry about a lot.