The mistress of sheet-wringing suspense (Falling Awake, 2004, etc.) scores with a sexy thriller set in Dunsley, a small northern California lake town still seething from a family murder 17 years before.
Irene Stenson was only 15 on the summer night she returned from an evening drive with best friend Pamela Webb to find the gunshot corpses of her parents on the floor of their lake house. The verdict at the time was that Dunsley police chief Hugh Stenson shot his wife and then himself, possibly in a jealous rage. The day after their funeral, an elderly aunt took the shell-shocked Irene away. Seventeen years later, Irene is a toughened reporter at an obscure newspaper elsewhere in California. She’s drawn back to Dunsley by an email from Pamela, whom she hasn’t seen since, asking to meet her to discuss “the past.” Trailed by Luke Danner, the curiously proprietary owner of the secluded lodge where she’s staying, Irene gets to her former friend too late; Pamela seems to have died of a drug overdose. Yet Irene is suspicious, nagged by the fact that Pamela had tried to contact her. She distrusts many of Dunsley’s inhabitants, from police chief Sam McPherson to the members of Pamela’s rich family, led by slick senator (and presidential aspirant) Ryland Webb. Clues open up as Irene runs into catty former acquaintances in town. She’s shadowed constantly by Luke, a likable ex-Marine who has suffered his own share of post-traumatic stress. Typically, Krentz provides her heroine with just enough independence to be daring, yet not so much as to seem hard or impervious to the attractions of her manly suitor. Characters move a bit too easily through these tidy pages, and it’s regrettable that Krentz switches POV to reveal the villains’ obvious intentions when readers are perfectly capable of figuring them out.
Fans won’t care: It’s good, creepy fun from a pro who can practically write in the dark.