In the first of a planned trilogy, a writer grieving the loss of her 4-year-old son becomes enmeshed with the subjects of her true-crime book-in-progress.
Shortly after the tragic death of her only child, Keegan, from a brain aneurysm, Charlotte "Charlie" Cates changes careers. Leaving her job at a Cosmopolitan-like Manhattan magazine, she accepts an assignment from a true-crime publisher to chronicle the disappearance of toddler Gabriel Deveau nearly 30 years before from his home, a Louisiana estate called Evangeline. Shortly after Keegan’s death, Charlie began having clairvoyant dreams about children in jeopardy, which have always proven true, and she has had one about Gabriel’s fate: it involves a boat, a swamp, and sexual abuse. Once ensconced in a guest cottage at Evangeline—the Deveau family thinks she's there to write a revisionist family history—Charlie begins digging. When one of her visions helps a local police detective, Remy Minot, find solace after his daughter’s death, he gives Charlie the inside track on the cold case investigation. After Gabriel vanished from his nursery in 1982, his parents, his much older siblings, his nanny, and her husband were all ruled out as suspects. Now, the widowed matriarch, Hettie Deveau, is dying of cancer and, unbeknownst to the surviving Deveau children, has altered her will, leaving the Deveau fortune to a historical foundation. Tentatively, Charlie begins an affair with Noah, hired by Hettie as a landscaper, who is actually the nanny’s grandson. Although from opposite poles socioeconomically, Charlie and Noah have similar issues—both were raised by grandparents after being abandoned by parents, both have recently undergone messy divorces. When the finger of suspicion begins to point to Noah’s father, Sean, who disappeared shortly before Gabriel did, the couple’s fledgling relationship is tested. Complications proliferate, and the resolution is improbable, but the hothouse atmosphere of Evangeline and the tortuous and tangled motives of its denizens make for an enjoyable puzzle box of a mystery.
An eerie but inviting debut.