A woman questions her sanity when she begins interacting with ghosts in Abbott’s debut thriller.
One night, 44-year-old wife and mother Phoebe Rivers is out for a late run when two strangers accost and rape her. She manages to stab one of her assailants before a third man, Petrel, rescues her. She later learns that Petrel may be the ghost of a man who died approximately 70 years ago. She’s reluctant to tell the cops or her husband, David, about the rape, for fear that they’ll think her insane; besides, she thinks she may have killed one of the rapists. She goes on to see more dead people, such as Sorel, a runaway slave from the Civil War era—but that fact is far less disturbing than what Phoebe learns about David. It turns out that he has another life, including a girlfriend named Annette. The adulterous couple may be up to something unspeakably sinister—something that may put Phoebe and her children in danger. Abbott pulls no punches in her somber tale, and she draws readers into some very bleak territory. A number of scary scenes may make readers cringe, as they involve young children. The violence, however, is never left unchecked; instead, Abbott merely highlights details of grisly sequences and lets readers’ imaginations carry the rest. Whether Phoebe is truly witnessing spirits or dreaming them is initially ambiguous, but the story makes it abundantly clear what’s happening before it’s over. In any case, the ghosts aren’t as riveting as the living characters. Annette, for instance, proves the vilest and most reprehensible character of all; the chapters focusing on her perspective reveal a back story that readers may find impossible to forget. The narrative’s timeline, however, is a little hard to follow, and the ages of Phoebe’s children are inconsistent. The kids’ long-suffering mother, though, is indefatigable. Indeed, Phoebe faces every tribulation head-on—an admirable trait in a protagonist.
A gloomy, character-driven story with a potency that’s not easy to match.