In Batts’ thriller, a woman learns whom to trust (or not) after her husband is arrested for drug trafficking and she becomes a target for murder.
When cops find a kilo of cocaine in the Bakers’ house, they arrest Exxon-Mobil VP Aaron and pressure his wife, Mona, into giving them proof of a secret bank account where Aaron’s stashed his drug money. And the police have leverage: They’ve found Mona’s sister, Simone, who disappeared nearly a decade ago and was presumed dead, and will keep her out of prison (for killing her rapist uncle) if Mona helps. Mona, however, knows nothing about Aaron’s drug trafficking, let alone any hidden money. She soon realizes that she’s being followed, and when she survives more than one attempt on her life, it’s clear that someone sees Mona as a loose end. Batts’ (Walls Fall Down, 2003) novel is a fascinating tale of a woman rediscovering her lost identity: Mona’s mother was a strict disciplinarian and raised her girls in a crime-riddled neighborhood, but the adult Mona, who admits to marrying Aaron for his money, has embraced an indulgent lifestyle. She finds her strength again, thanks to Simone, a sublime character who has made her own way without a rich husband. Mona is deeply flawed: She claims that the cops are using her to secure a case against Aaron, but Mona is likewise using numerous people, namely her various lovers—men and women whom she’s strung along with no intention of forging any emotional connection. What makes Mona a resounding protagonist is her acknowledgement of her weaknesses and her love for her 7-year-old daughter, Sophie. The story reads like a mystery; it begins by almost immediately asking questions: Is there a foreign bank account? Was the cocaine Aaron’s or, as he maintains, part of a frame-up? But, though answers eventually surface, it’s a bit disappointing that Mona doesn’t act as amateur sleuth or initiate her own investigation. Notwithstanding, there’s definitely suspense—Mona’s distrust of police is derived from Aaron’s friendship with the mayor and the possibility of corrupt cops.
The first in a proposed series, readers will welcome the time spent with the enigmatic Mona Baker.