In this suspense novel, an anonymous stalker menaces a woman in New England.
It’s the 1980s, and fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Dillard lives 5 miles away from the little village of Stern, Vermont, in a small cabin next to Quelle Lake. For the last dozen years, the 30-year-old woman has guarded her privacy carefully, so she’s deeply unsettled when she becomes convinced that someone’s watching her. She can’t ask for help from anyone, however, because she’s hiding something in her past. Jennifer’s stalker gets her attention by cruelly abusing a puppy and leaving it on her doorstep; although she’s able to save the animal, her nerves stretch past the breaking point as she wonders who she can trust in town, and who the culprit might be. The possibilities in the village are few—other teachers; the rich Bostonian who bought the property next door to hers; or perhaps Wiley Lofts, the single father of her favorite student. Threatening notes soon arrive, and Jennifer’s painful, repressed memories rise to the surface. Can she put all the pieces together before it’s too late? Debut author Andrews assembles some familiar thriller ingredients in this tale of a vulnerable, isolated young woman who’s being hunted by an evil man. Its suspense feels less urgent as time passes, and the stalker’s threats and Jennifer’s expressions of fear become repetitive. Even more unfortunate and off-putting is an excruciating scene of the puppy’s torture, which is described in detail; it’s also mystifying that several characters dismiss this extreme cruelty as a mere “teen prank.” That said, Jennifer’s dramatic past, set in the turmoil of the late ’60s, adds interest and figures importantly in the modern-day plot. Also, she’s not being targeted because of sexual obsession, as is often the case in similar stories. The side characters are well drawn with character-defining backstories that provide complexity, as when Wiley’s prickly pride won’t let him correct Jennifer’s impression that he’s a handyman and not a skilled carpenter.
An uneven woman-in-jeopardy story with intriguing characters that’s hampered by a slow pace.