Twenty years after going into witness protection, a woman's violent past comes back to haunt her.
Freedom Oliver tends bar at the Whammy in the remote Oregon coast town of Painter, and most nights she's behind the bar, getting blackout drunk. The local cops, particularly Officer James Mattley, know the best thing to do is take her home, not toss her in a jail cell. Mattley is familiar with the stories Freedom tells when she's drunk—and denies when she's sober—especially about her two children, Ethan and Layla, and her desperate fear of being raped. It turns out that Freedom's stories are true—though, in what turns out to be a frustrating habit of Miller's, we're given that information twice. She's really Nessa Delaney from Long Island, accused of killing her abusive husband, Mark, an NYPD officer; she made a sort-of deal with the devil that led to her two young children being given away for adoption—she signed away her parental rights—and her entering the witness protection program. Part of the arrangement meant that Mark's brother, Matthew—despite their biblical names, the entire Delaney family is rotten to the core—went down for Nessa's crime. Now he's out and wants revenge. Freedom is determined to find and protect her children—now known as Mason and Rebekah and living in their own version of hell—no matter the cost. Miller creates an intriguingly flawed heroine in Freedom, but there's simply too much background noise—case in point: Mason and Rebekah are tied to a Kentucky doomsday religious cult—to let the character resonate properly.
A thrilling if excessively plotted debut.