A reporter and an exchange student fight their way through a dangerous psychological maze in coastal France.
The camera is still running on the video recording German tourists are making of sunrise over the lavender fields in France when a barefoot and bloodied girl emerges from the woods and is hit by a car. The video goes viral with the plea to help the #AmericanGirl, and Molly Swift cuts short her holiday to try to get past the other hacks camping outside the hospital where the girl, identified as Quinn Perkins, lies in a coma. She’s a student from Boston who’s been living in St. Roch with the Blavette family on a cultural exchange program. Passing herself off as Quinn’s aunt, Molly learns that the girl’s chances of coming out of the coma are 50/50. Molly should be pleased that she’s so well-placed to scoop her competitors and get a story for her podcast, American Confessional, especially since the Blavettes have gone missing and are therefore good copy. But sympathy for the helpless girl leads her to a more auntlike role than she’d planned. She finds an ally—and a lover—in Inspector Bertrand Valentin, head of the St. Roch police. Molly asks for Quinn to be discharged to her care and begins helping the girl piece together her lost memories. A disturbing picture emerges of Quinn’s host family. The father had to sell the family mansion and then disappeared two years ago. The wife was forced to teach school and take exchange students to make ends meet. The daughter starves and cuts herself. Quinn is obsessed with the handsome and charming son even though some of his romantic ideas are a little strange. The mystery of a past student’s death, a plea for help sent to Quinn’s phone, and the twin caves Les Yeux teach both Molly and Quinn a terrifying lesson about how deceiving appearances can be.
Throughout her novel’s shifts in narration and chronology, Horsley plays the reader as cleverly as she does the characters.