Still reeling from her husband's and daughter's deaths in a car accident, journalist Mercer Hennessy accepts an assignment to write a book on the “Baby Boston” trial, but the line between guilt and innocence isn’t as firm as she initially thought.
It’s been more than a year since Mercer’s husband, Dex, and their 3-year-old daughter, Sophie, died—Mercer keeps track of the days on her post-shower foggy bathroom mirror. She’s still deep in the throes of depression and hasn’t worked since, but now her former editor Katherine Craft calls out of the blue with a proposal that’s both cruel and perfect: Cover the hottest trial in town and turn it into a sure-to-be-bestselling true-crime book. The emotional punch is that Mercer will be reliving another mother’s pain in losing her daughter, but in this case Ashyln Bryant is on trial for murder, accused of having killed 2-year-old Tasha Nicole, whose body washed up in a garbage bag in Boston Harbor. Katherine needles and goads Mercer until she agrees to the project. Ryan (Say No More, 2016, etc.) does little to disguise the parallels to the Casey Anthony case, and she makes it clear from the start where Mercer stands on Ashlyn: She's sure the woman is 100 percent guilty despite the lack of forensic evidence tying her to the crime. Mercer simply doesn’t like Ashlyn, and readers, who may agree in theory, might find themselves repelled by the strength of Mercer’s convictions. Then a surprise verdict forces Mercer to write a very different book, one with Ashlyn’s own input. It’s at this point that Ryan enters a quagmire of what ifs from which there is no return.
There's a strong idea here, and the damaged heroine has potential, but the novel into which they’re thrust doesn't do them justice.