Still another bad-seed babysitter wreaks havoc, this time in an overwrought gothic by the pseudonymous author (“a critically acclaimed mystery and thriller writer”) of The Trophy Wife (not reviewed).
But gorgeous, multitalented, and unquestionably ambitious Theresa Santiago, 19, isn’t nearly as much of a monster as her employer, Gordon Acton. He’s in Iago’s class, though at the outset a civilized patina does a serviceable job of camouflaging the darkness lurking within. Gordie’s running for the US Congress, and while the seat seems Republican-safe enough he wants to double-lock it by appealing to the “melting pot” districts. Enter Latina Theresa. As they do every summer, the Actons are planning their Cape Cod getaway. Ellie Acton needs a babysitter for her two kids (nine, five) so that she can devote her time to a much-delayed doctoral thesis in special education. Her first reaction to Theresa is distinctly negative. No way, she maintains, can plebian Theresa comfortably breathe the rarified air of Ellie’s patrician circle. But Theresa dazzles. She plays the flute like a prodigy, works the computer like a wiz (a skill Ellie soon exploits for her research), and charms the children like a veritable Pied Piper. Don’t even ask what she does for your basic bikini. At any rate, don’t ask Gordie, who willy-nilly takes her to bed and almost at once rues his rampant carnality. Theresa has both spouses feeling vulnerable. Will she embarrass Ellie by claiming a collaborator’s full share of her research? Will she blow the whistle on Gordie’s disgraceful philandering, thus blowing his candidacy out of the water? The Actons convince themselves that both answers are yes and something must be done to forestall extortionate Theresa. Few experienced thriller readers will be unprepared for what that something turns out to be.
Stock figures and telegraphed plot twists. Diamond aims low here and misses.