A sea voyage from the U.S. to Italy churns up whirlwind romance and a strong possibility of murder in Wickard’s (A Perfect Setup, 2013, etc.) latest thriller.
Sami Saxton is ready to enjoy an extended cruise with her pal Drew Shaffer. Things are off to a good start when Sami meets Giovanni Gulati, a handsome Italian who has more than a passing interest in her. But their burgeoning and exciting relationship is threatened when Sami sees a ski-masked man watching her, leading her to believe that she’s being followed by a stalker she thought she’d left behind in New York. It only gets more harrowing from there: police board the ship to investigate a missing passenger, and Sami receives a note slid under her door from “a secret admirer”—a list of crossed-out names; she’s next. Someone on the cruise may be an unsavory character from Sami’s past with sinister intentions. The suspense in Douglas’ thriller comes at a slow crawl, but effectively so. The menace onboard is introduced early with a quick perspective from an unknown person secretly keeping an eye on Sami. But much of the story is devoted to Sami’s time with Giovanni. Their romance is never tacky or excessively melodramatic; it’s a believable relationship with a suitor who alternates between amorous gestures and, on one of their dates, standing Sami up. Author Wickard will have readers on edge before the weirdo in a ski mask even makes an appearance: married Drew reignites a dangerous affair with a shrink, and Sami notices seemingly unfounded animosity from Mr. Delphino, Giovanni’s caretaker. The story doesn’t present itself as a whodunit, so while the identity of the masked man isn’t too surprising, it doesn’t diminish him as a genuine threat to Sami and Drew. Overall, Wickard efficiently delivers a narrative that’s like a methodical, white-knuckle grip of the throat, the tension gradually getting tighter.
A leisurely paced but ultimately rewarding, riveting thriller.