Reporter Philip Dryden (The Moon Tunnel, 2005, etc.) learns firsthand how remorselessly a children’s game can invoke the law of unintended consequences.
Four youngsters are playing hide-and-seek in the Cambridgeshire Fens one day in 1974. Philip Dryden, age ten, is so deftly concealed that he manages not to see what his playmates see, a happenstance that saves his life. Years later, Dryden is a features-writer for a local weekly who observes an unusual number of fellow citizens dying, unusual even for the sub-zero temperatures. Two of the victims, it turns out, were players in that long-ago game. A coincidence, say the Cambridgeshire cops when Dryden brings his tale to them. Not so, insists Dryden, convinced that murder’s been done in order to cover up a dire secret. Not only is he constitutionally unable to back off, he’s in desperate need of an emotional furlough from the vigil he keeps over his beloved Laura, comatose for four years in the aftermath of a tragic auto accident.
First-rate prose and an appealing hero who rises irresistibly above a full range of candidly confessed flaws and phobias: “Dogs,” it is noted, “were just one of the things he was afraid of. But they were one of the things he was afraid of most.”