An unappreciated ghostwriter finds herself in the spotlight.
Em Moore was first a student of Teddy Blake, then his lover and, finally, half of the writing team of T.E. Blakemore. Before Teddy was killed in an auto accident, he and Em had been working on the authorized biography of actor-turned-director Garrett Malcolm, scion of a famous acting dynasty. Teddy has always been the charming face of the duo and Em, a plain girl subject to panic attacks. But somehow she persuades the publishers, who want to cancel the project, to let her go ahead with it. Armed with the tapes Teddy made while he was interviewing Malcolm on Cape Cod, Em sets out to finish the book. Malcolm is working on a production of Hamlet on his father’s large estate, a place that will eventually belong to his actress daughter, who is currently in Europe, or maybe Australia. At first, Malcolm puts off Em, but then he invites her to stay at the estate, where he seduces her. Both Malcolm’s jealous cousin and a scandalmongering local blogger insinuate that Malcolm has a dirty secret to hide. Enchanted by Malcolm, harassed by the blogger and questioned by the police, Em fights off panic attacks while working hard to find the truth behind Malcolm’s facade of wealth and celebrity. The police, meanwhile, express their doubts that Teddy’s death was really an accident.
Barnes puts aside her Carlotta Carlyle series (Lie Down With the Devil, 2008, etc.) for an eerie, suspenseful stand-alone that focuses more on the characters and their dark pasts than on a clever mystery.