A newlywed discovers her mother-in-law has a dangerous secret agenda.
Victoria Verducci wasn’t looking for love when she traveled to Las Vegas for a five-week training program. She lives in San Diego, where she works at a top investment firm. At the start of the program, she meets the handsome and attentive Brad Reynolds, an employee of the firm’s office in North Florida. A widower, he is raising his 5-year-old son, Andy, with the help of his mother, Madeline. After a whirlwind courtship, the couple elopes in Vegas. Victoria transfers to the Florida office, moves to Brad’s hometown of Jacksonville, and quickly bonds with Andy. Her relationship with Madeline is another matter. Madeline, ever rigid, expects the family to follow her rules: dinner at 6:30 every night and no TV. She continually finds fault with Victoria and her parenting style. Uncomfortable with the tension, Victoria wants to find a new home with Brad and Andy, but warnings from a neighbor and unsettling discoveries about Madeline’s and Brad’s past lead her to wonder how far Madeline is willing to go to maintain control over her son and grandson. Moore’s (Murder at the Country Club, 2018, etc.) latest is a fast-paced, compulsively readable mystery with strong characters and well-drawn settings. Victoria is a sympathetic lead, and Madeline is a cunning and elusive antagonist—a woman whose icy perfection and strict adherence to a complex set of rules mask subtle attempts to undermine Victoria’s marriage and relationship with her new stepson. While the novel is set in sunny Florida, the family drama at the heart of the story is worthy of a gothic novel, and the Reynolds family home is an important part of the setting. Victoria is expecting an open and airy beach house; instead, she finds a dark, formal home with ornate furnishings. This home plays a key role in many of the story’s most suspenseful scenes, and Moore’s keenly observed descriptions (“With these furnishings, if you weren’t looking out the window, you would never guess you were at the beach”) add to the fun.
A sharply written, suspenseful domestic thriller.