A true-crime writer travels to small-town Massachusetts to investigate the murder of a friend's family years earlier only to find a tangle of secrets and lies.
Bailey Weggins (So Pretty It Hurts, 2012, etc.) leads a comfortable life in Manhattan: she has a new book out and is on the hunt for her next subject. When Jillian Lowe walks into one of Bailey’s author events, it’s a blast from the past, and not an entirely pleasant one. They were college pals 16 years earlier when Jillian left school abruptly after her parents and two younger siblings were slaughtered in their home in Dory, Massachusetts. Neighborhood teen Dylan Fender confessed to the crime, and Bailey has always regretted that she never reached out to Jillian after the murders, letting their friendship lapse. Now Jillian has a professional proposition for Bailey and a way for her to atone for her friendship sins: DNA evidence just proved that Fender was wrongly convicted—though he tragically died in jail before being exonerated—and Jillian wants Bailey to find the real killer. Returning to Dory is jarring for Jillian and informative for Bailey, whose investigation often seems to hinge more on luck than on deductive reasoning skills. White (The Secrets You Keep, 2017, etc.) leans heavily on the cliché of the smaller the town, the bigger (and dirtier) its secrets, but Bailey’s digging into the lives of the not-so-perfect Lowes does yield a few genuine twists. The continued and unsuccessful attempts on Bailey’s life is a well-worn trope but isn’t out of place here.
A murder case almost two decades old often takes a back seat to the ups and downs of a friendship finding its footing after years and tragedy have taken their tolls—a familiar but well-executed mix.