Why would teenager Eliot Gardener suddenly take a machete to his family as they toiled alongside him on a Sechelt beach, killing his father and mother and seriously wounding his beloved eight-year-old sister Rosie? Wright, too cagey a pro to offer a quick answer (or even much hope for a slow one), instead pairs this riddle with another: Why did salesman Jack Coutts once beat up Sgt. Karl Alberg? For that matter, why has Coutts, mourning his own wife and daughter, drifted back to the coast of British Columbia packing a gun and evidently intending to use it to postpone Alberg's marriage to his live-in librarian, Cassandra Mitchell, to the indefinite future? Taking as her model Barbara Vine's retrospective studies of guilt, Wright plunges back into the history of Coutts's fey, troubled wife--even as Eliot, partnered by an amazingly resourceful little kid not much older than the sister he attacked, breaks out of the detention center he's been sent to without a clue where he's going or what he'll do. Despite the high body count and the promise of more action, the uncharacteristically languid story never really escapes the toils of the past--but that's exactly Wright's point, as she labors to trace the outlines of these strangers beneath the masks they've worn to each other for years. Not by a long shot the best of Alberg's dozen cases (Mother Love, 1995, etc.), but one of the most ruminative and touched with hope.