A therapist who treats rape victims finds out she’s married to a man who might be a rapist.
Simon Howe has returned to his hometown of Red Paint, Maine, to edit the local paper, one that is almost routinely devoid of news. At the beginning of the novel, he has hired Dave Rigero, a rapist recently released from prison, as a pressman, much to the disgust of Simon’s wife, Amy. Although Simon makes an effort to justify giving Dave a job and thus reintroducing him into society, Amy firmly identifies with the victims in her therapy practice and feels that Simon should make no concessions to heinous offenders. Soon after, Simon begins to receive anonymous postcards, mysterious and mildly threatening, and he tries to think of anyone from his past who could have an animus against him. And then, even more creepiness begins to assert itself into Simon’s life, mainly involving his son, Davey, who’s spooked by a mysterious person hanging around the house and who has an odd conversation with a stranger at a carnival. It turns out this sinister man is Paul Chambers, a former high school classmate of Simon’s whose wife, Jean, had taken her life a few weeks before. Chambers is convinced that Simon is responsible because, 25 years before, he had had sex with Jean on the night of their high school graduation—but was it rape? Chambers shows up for “therapy” at Amy’s office, primarily to throw hints to her about Simon’s past. Eventually, Simon feels so threatened by Chambers that he shoves him into the bay and believes he’s drowned—so now Simon might be responsible not only for Jean’s rape and eventual suicide but for her husband’s murder as well.
Harrar skillfully echoes Alfred Hitchcock’s theme about how a seemingly innocent man can be sucked into a disturbing vortex of forces that lie just below the surface of “normal” life.