Parsons (Courtship Gift, 2000, etc.) presents a grim thriller that asks whether redemption might not be worse than the original sin.
Twelve years ago, Rachel Beckett was sent to prison for the cold-blooded shooting of her husband Martin, an Irish police officer who had been brutally punishing Rachel for an affair with his brother Daniel that resulted in Amy, the daughter he had thought was his. Rachel went to prison protesting her innocence, claiming that Daniel, whom she had called for help, had pulled the trigger. Released on parole, Rachel begins a new life, closely watched by her parole officer, Andy Bowen, and police officer Jack Donnelly. When her dearest friend from prison, beautiful young Judith Hill, a recovering heroin addict starting over at college, is tortured and murdered, Donnelly investigates. Bowen threatens to tell Donnelly about Rachel’s illegal meeting with Judith unless his parolee baby-sits his invalid wife. The most obvious suspects for Judith’s murder are her oh-so-respectable father, Dr. Mark Hill, and her equally beautiful brother Stephen. Judith’s long-estranged mother Elizabeth, an artist living in a nature preserve in England, returns to Ireland for Judith’s funeral and insists that Mark and Stephen are innocent. Her defense is too late for both: Mark hangs himself rather than face a humiliating investigation, and Stephen loses his mind and begins decapitating small animals. Neither confesses, and Donnelly has his doubts. Meantime, Rachel tries to reconnect with 17-year-old Amy, but finds that she hates her mother. Instead, Rachel does manage to insert herself into the lives of Daniel’s wife and two small children and, eventually, back into Daniel’s bed. Simultaneously, Daniel strikes up a relationship with Amy. Protection? Possession? Who is the cat, who the mouse?
Rachel’s scars and patient resourcefulness drive a suspenseful, disturbing fable that ultimately makes little distinction between making amends and taking revenge.